By MICHELLE HUANG & BELINDA KUO
EDITORIAL EDITOR & STAFF WRITER
Peace. Is it too much to ask for?
For decades on end, citizens around the world have relentlessly worked toward establishing world peace. Yet, with all of this dedication and all of these people working toward peace, a disastrous few still work just as hard to push our efforts back with each step forward.
On Easter Sunday, Apr. 21, Christians in Sri Lanka gathered to celebrate Easter mass. That morning, three churches and three hotels were attacked in what was the largest attack on South Asian Christians. The attacks by suicide bombers killed more than 300 people and injured approximately 500. The targeted Roman Catholic churches of worship include St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, the capital, St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and Zion Church in Batticaloa, while the three luxury hotels include the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury, all in Colombo.
With hundreds of innocent lives lost and thousands of people scarred from this tragedy, we must still not be doing enough. In a society of constant turmoil and tragedy, it seems that, rather than gradual elimination of horrifically fatal actions on the parts of dark-minded individuals, prevention is the only way to stop such devestations from occurring.
In the case of the Sri Lanka bombings, an advisory sent by a police official alerted security officials about a detailed warning to churches from a radical Islamist group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath more than 10 days before the attacks. Such an alert should have been taken seriously, but the government’s blatant lack of actions following the warnings resulted in major problems for the government. According to Rauff Hakeem, minister of city planning, the attack was a “colossal failure on the part of intelligence services,” largely a result of bitter disagreements within Sri Lanka’s leaders. And that bitter resentment did not stop after the bombings. On Monday, a handful of ministers lashed out at President Maithripala Sirisena, who controls the security services for not acting on the warnings prior to the attacks.
Let me repeat that: a country’s own leaders, elected to serve and protect its citizens, put countless innocent lives at risk over a no doubt comparatively minor political dispute.
Where exactly do the country’s priorities lie? After all, without the basis of safe and functioning citizens, these officials would have absolutely no role to play, much less that of a country leader. In this tragic, completely foreseen attack on unassuming individuals, the government of Sri Lanka has undoubtedly ignored its utmost top priority–and that is unforgivable.
Following the attacks, the government enforced a temporary ban on social media and messaging networks such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Viber, and there has been no specification as to when the ban will be lifted. Although the attacks had no connection to social media, Sri Lanka has history of inciting violence on social media, and this ban shows the ability for social media to cause a downfall.
The timing of the ban seems oddly fitting in a world where misinformation spreads on such a large scale level. With the constant mention of “fake news” that began to gain significant momentum during the wake of the 2016 United States presidency, courtesy of President Donald Trump, it seems that this incident serves only to further exemplify the phrase. After all, this “fake news” epidemic may very well have spread so far as to taint the Sri Lanka government’s judgment of its people’s safety, despite the constant flow of warning signs sent to them. To the government, it could have been just another hoax threat, anyway.
The Sri Lankan government’s actions of enforcing the social media ban are understandable, especially because Facebook admitted to contributing to spreading violence in Myanmar in November last year. With the growing reliance of today’s society on social media for news, it seems that the
If the government reacted so quickly to the fake news being spread in earlier incidences of threats, why didn’t it react this quickly to the warnings of the possible bombings? Given that Sri Lanka’s government took action to block social media to prevent misinformation after the bombings but did not take a detailed police report on possible suicide bombings seriously shows where the government’s priorities lie.
Each tragic bombing impacts the entire world as a learning experience, and it reflects the fact that humans still have a long way to go for peace. From this, and many other similar occurrences, we now know that prevention is key, but even so, governments of countries around the world would be paranoid over every small detail and potential threat. It is understandable that governments would struggle to find a balance between them all, especially with the onset of a fear of general fabricated news.
Unfortunately, the Sri Lanka bombings only foreshadow what tragedies are to come. Even with all the other religious bombings before the Sri Lanka bombings, there has not been a single way to actually prevent such intolerance towards religious groups. For instance, in late January of this year, the Jolo Cathedral in Manila was a target to two bombings at the cathedral. These terrible tragedies reflect all the intolerance and extremism in this world. The bombings not only impact the people within that local area or country, but the entire world.
As a world, we must learn from each mistake made, and as a world, we will continue mourn over the innocent lives lost. As a world, we will continue to better ourselves in hopes of peace for our time.