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How many more times?

  • Published at 12:01 am April 24th, 2019
Sri Lanka Bombing
Denmark mourns Sri Lanka REUTERS

We cannot let terror dictate our lives

Another day, another terrorist attack. Another day with hundreds of lives lost. Families torn apart. Friends, daughters, lovers, parents, children, businessmen, authors, dreamers -- gone. Just like that.

The deep wounds inflicted by the attacks during Friday prayers in a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand in March are still very fresh in our minds. However, this time, it seems Eliot was right when he wrote that “April is the cruellest month” as it brought horrors to Sri Lanka of proportions unfathomable to most -- a brutal, heinous coordinated attack on churches and hotels, that too on Easter Sunday, one of the holiest days of the year for Christians.

A day when Jesus Christ was resurrected, Easter symbolizes hope, yet, for Sri Lanka, this Easter would be etched into its history as one of its darkest days, when it had to witness close to 300 souls perish, and hundreds others critically injured.

All because of the cruelty human beings are capable of towards other human beings.

I remember the Holey Artisan attacks in 2016, and I was in a coffee shop in Gulshan myself when it happened. Despite our beliefs of being thinking, rational creatures, nothing really can prepare you for the fear that is evoked during terror attacks.

It is as if we are robbed of our cognitive ability, and our only thoughts are those of seeking safety and refuge, perhaps thousands of years of evolutionary instinct kicking in.

And, with all respect to all the victims and their families who suffered through the Holey Artisan attack, I cannot even imagine what the people of Sri Lanka, particularly the families of the victims, are going through right now.

However, if after Christchurch, I felt a personal connection to the attack, then this coordinated series of attacks in Sri Lanka compelled me to take a metaphorical step back, and try to reason, within myself, how it is that the world reacts, or tries to cope, after such a horrifying incident.

As it happens after every horrific tragedy in the affected country, first, security is beefed up. Curfews are set in place. The despair that clings on to the people during these times is palpable, relentless, unforgiving.

The whole world mourns and weeps for the victims and their families. Governments strongly condemn the attacks, and assure and promise the citizens that such actions cannot and will not go unpunished. Law enforcement agencies and even the military chime in with their input, looking to further encourage the demoralized population, that there will never be a repeat of such an incident. 

The media world is buzzing with stories, with interviews of either survivors, or the families of the victims. Intellectuals debate on TV, panels are held across the world rife with discussions, newspapers write editorials, calling for solidarity and unity and condemning such barbaric actions.

The emotionally charged climate is also perfect fodder for sensationalist journalism, and just as human beings are cruel enough to take human lives without thought and reason, similarly, there will always be those who would seek to gain from others’ misery.

The digitized world, with its many merits, has also supercharged the spread of misinformation, and it is unfortunate that even during times of mourning, people have to be wary of separating fact from fiction. 

People pour in their ideas, in the form of social media posts, reacts, and in some cases when people want a more serious platform to express their views, they even write op-eds, hoping that their words will be read and taken seriously, and maybe, just maybe, there will be change.

I had alluded to Harvard Psychology Professor Dr Steven Pinker in a previous article, who claims that statistically, the world is a much better place now, today, than it has ever been in the past. While that may be true, I don’t know how prudent it is to reduce human misery to mere statistics.

However, what becomes clearer to me, day by day, is that tragedies will continue. There will be evil in this world, and human beings will do evil things to one another. In the time that I finish writing this article, in possibly every country in the world, there has been a murder, or a woman raped, or a poor individual cheated, or all of the above.

As bleak a reality as that may be, we all know that it is the reality of the world. It has always been the reality of the world. But this does not mean that we stop living, or give up all hope. As cliche as the statement may be, it is when our lives deviate from our preferred everyday routine that evil truly wins. 

Despite the obvious fear that such tragedy brings, and will continue to bring, and while acknowledging the feeling of helplessness that cripples our minds during such heinous acts of terror, and while also mourning the fallen, and supporting the families of the victims, our greatest triumph against terror, no matter how unattainable it may be, will be when we do not allow it to dictate how we live our lives. 

AHM Mustfafizur Rahman is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune.

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