At Study U Abroad I’ve often talked about fear in the sense of our personal, inner fears. This week’s tip is more about the fear that results from outward acts, such as the terrorist attacks that occurred last Friday, November 13th in Paris, France.
The attacks in Paris were by no means the only recent acts of terror in the world. Just days prior suicide bombings left 43 dead and 200 more injured in Beirut, Lebanon. If we expand the lens and consider what has happened (and continues to happen) in places like Nigeria, Libya, Kenya, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, and many, many more you can begin to get a sense of the fear that plagues a growing portion of our world’s population.
But Paris seems to have struck a nerve around the globe. It’s a beloved city that many millions of people have visited. It’s also one of the most popular destinations for American students to study abroad. People start caring about something when it affects them personally and Paris feels more personal. It would seem normal that in our solidarity we simultaneously experience a sense of collective fear. This is precisely what the terrorists want.
The attacks in Paris have happened at a time when the refugee crisis sweeping Europe is reaching a critical point. European leaders are trying to find ways to effectively respond to this unprecedented migration. Countries such as Sweden are struggling to practically integrate the hundreds of thousands of people arriving from Syria this year alone in a way that won’t collapse their social welfare system in the long run. Citizens are uneasy and skeptical. The Paris attacks occurred against this backdrop of existing fear and unrest.
But in order to not let terror win you must be willing to continue to explore and travel with purpose. I firmly believe in the power of study abroad to create a more peaceful, accepting, and compassionate world. Take the chance to stretch yourself, to learn who you really are and what your life is about, to look back at your own country and see it with a fresh perspective, to identify problems and opportunities you wouldn’t have even noticed before, and to meet new people and share ideas. Traveling in this way can actually help dispel fear and pave the way for empathy and understanding.
Now that it’s become personal to millions more I hope people also begin to pay attention to what is happening around the world every day. While we show solidarity for the people of Paris, let’s also show solidarity for the victims of terrorism everywhere.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.