Editors note: The following is a editorial approved by the Scroll Editorial Board. The views in this article do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of BYU-Idaho.
As the dark gray cloud began to expand, the site was slowly but surely burning down. People worried about how it started, but mostly about the preservation of such a holy site. Would the fire destroy the building?
On April 15, smoke started in the guard’s booth at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque. Was this the holy building on fire you thought of?
On the same day, a fire started in Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral and was — and still is — constantly mentioned as a tragic event, “a knife to the heart” and a sorrowful catastrophic event.
Funds and donations have poured in, including the funds collected by Olympique Marseille saved for young people in Marseilles, which have now been redirected to the monument.
Preserving culture and supporting religious freedom should be a priority. Although there was controversy about the $900 million dollars in donations to Notre-Dame Cathedral, we believe we should always do our best to preserve history and support different beliefs.
However, we believe in supporting not only the famous sites and the privileged, but all that need a helping hand. As we are taught to be inquisitive and literate, not just in language but also in the media, we should seek to raise questions concerning who we help and how we can help.
But is that really what we are doing? Is that what happened for the fire in Jerusalem?
The Al-Aqsa Mosque, which began its foundation in the eighth century, is the biggest mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site to Islam. Dedicated online searching reveals that the fire at the mosque was discussed by only a few, small news organizations.
The fire at Notre–Dame? One quick search yields 228,000,000 results in 0.54 seconds.
What about the cyclone that happened in March in Beira, Mozambique, and continued to Zimbabwe? What about the wake of a landslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar? What about the massive fire that lit up downtown Lima, Peru?
The situation in Beira is much worse than the damaging fires. According to the American Red Cross, “Almost everything is destroyed. Communication lines have been completely cut and roads have been destroyed. Some affected communities are not accessible… Beira has been severely battered. But we are also hearing that the situation outside the city could be even worse. Yesterday, a large dam burst and cut off the last road to the city.”
This event was barely mentioned in the news. Why would we mention a fire in a cathedral, and not in a mosque? Why focus on a specific holy site than on thousands of families that lost so much due to a natural disaster? Although culture is part of who we are, it seems that the focal point is on certain cultures and, sometimes, prioritize buildings over lives—even certain buildings over others.
Although France, Israel, Peru, Mozambique or Zimbabwe are not Rexburg, can we say that we don’t witness and commit the same type of reasoning? Many times we can find ourselves in circumstances where helping someone who has always issues seems burdensome. Or after leaving a ward, we fall into the habit of thinking the help given before to someone, is no longer part of our responsibility. Are we mobilized solely if there is a group of people pushing us to do it? Do we try to look for ways to help, within our home, ward, community and the world? Are we limiting our help? Can we honestly justify our lack of action due to the lack of money or time?
We believe that people and news organizations should not focus only on the tourist areas and the privileged. When we fight for freedom, we fight for all people, not solely for a group of people.
Nevertheless, the news will focus on what the audience wants because that is what sells. We can argue we are conditioned by the news to see only what they want us to see, but if we seek more of what they don’t offer, wouldn’t they feel the need to give us more of what we want?
With the freedom of speech and the evolution of technology, it is demanded that we understand media and develop media literacy. According to the Center for Media Literacy, “To become media literate is not to memorize facts or statistics about the media, but rather to learn to raise the right questions about what you are watching, reading or listening to.”
As citizens of the world, and as thinkers, we should have the drive to know more about others, extend a helping hand, and genuinely care for the comfort of those near and far. We should acknowledge that we depend on others and others on us, independent of physical location or beliefs. It seems that the information given to us is not focusing on the world, but on the privileged. As a news organization, we believe that as readers and writers, we should seek to be informed and help all, not just a few.
As José Saramago, a Portuguese author, said, “I think we are blind, Blind but seeing, Blind people who can see, but do not see.” Let’s truly see.