by MAYA DAWIT
Religious persecution is not a new issue. In fact, one could argue that this unthinkable act of hatred has a long and drawn out history both here in the U.S. and around the world. Whether it’s the Holocaust, the mass murder of Syrian Christians or the plight of this country’s true natives, millions of human beings have been killed around the world for how they choose to worship.
We saw another example of this recently growing form of hatred two days ago, when a video was released by ISIS militants that appeared to show about 30 Ethiopian Christians being killed in Libya because of their religion. This video came just two months after a similar one was released by what is believed to be the same group of militants, killing 21 Egyptian Christians on a beach in Libya.
This story rocked me to my core for many reasons. First and foremost, I am an Ethiopian and I am a Christian. While growing up, many of my friends used words like “black” or “African-American” to define who they were, I have always identified as Ethiopian. (And no, that is in no way me denouncing my “blackness” or putting myself on a pedestal, it’s simply my identity.) That, coupled with the fact that I was basically raised in the same church my entire life, is why after learning about these killings all I could picture in my head were the many boys and men I grew up around being murdered for simply being who they are.
The second reason this story is so important to me is because it comes at a very vital point in world history. For months, we have been protesting, fighting and chanting “Blacks Lives Matter.” Blacks have been condemning the actions of power-hungry, brutal police officers and trying to get the world to understand the value of the black life. For someone my age, we have been given the rare opportunity to have a front row seat to a very crucial part of history. But….where is the uproar for my brothers who have fallen in Libya? Why are the people talking about this issue limited to a few news stations, Ethiopians and a handful of others?
If you look at the cases of the black men killed at the hands of American police and those being killed by ISIS militants, the similarities are uncanny. Take some innocent black males, add a powerful, “brotherhood” of killers, throw in some unwarranted and misguided hatred plus a few cameras and you have a recipe for something we have seen far too many times these past few years.
So why is no one standing up for them? Is it only the black lives in the U.S. that matter? Does their plight mean less because the battle for justice might be a little more difficult? Or because instead of being killed for the color of their skin, they were murdered for who they chose to worship? When Michael Brown was killed at the hands of former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, it sparked protests that spread from Los Angeles and New York to London and Berlin. It was this show of international unity that helped push the Black Lives Matter movement to the forefront of the world’s eye. The world had our backs then, why can’t it do the same now?
I am not a naïve person. I understand that these two issues have their differences. But at its core, the Black Lives Matter movement is about bringing awareness to a group of people who “are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.” That is what is happening and that is what we need to fight. And I can start by pointing the finger at myself. While I have always condemned the brutal acts of terror committed by ISIS, it wasn’t until it hit this close to home that I realized not enough is being done. We have seen the power a group of voices can have when banded together for the greater good. Whether the terror is here or abroad, it should be fought with the same vigor.
Because, tell me…
What’s the difference?