More conflict that’ll soon be forgotten: When al-Shabaab gunmen attacked Garissa University in northeast Kenya last Thursday, April 2, they killed at least 149 people according to the official Twitter account of Kenya’s National Disaster Operation Centre and Kenyan media reports. Authorities said that they had targeted mainly Christians.
Approximately 815 students are enrolled at Garissa University College according to an April 2 CNN article. Of the 815 students, 500 have been evacuated. Approximately 21 percent of the students at the college were murdered during the al-Shabaab attack. If 21 percent of VCU’s student body was murdered, the total would ramp up to more than 6,500 casualties. The analogy is there to make a substantial point: While it is not our community, our state or even our nation, the students were a large part of their Kenyan community, and thus a substantial part of the global community.
While al-Shabaab is a name that may be unfamiliar to the majority of the American public, this is definitely not the first time they were the cause of mass death in Africa. In September 2013, the militant group attacked Westgate, a shopping mall in Nairobi, killing 67 people.
Reports of this attack will pass silently through the night, as quickly as Boko Haram’s Jan. 3 attack on the Nigerian town of Baga which resulted in nearly 2,000 casualties. Mainstream media outlets will resume covering the Iranian nuclear deals and the American public will continue to saturate themselves with pop-culture pornography.
As I’ve said before, lives lost in Africa deserve more than a subtle nod by saying “this needs to stop.” Unfortunately as a U.S. student, that’s all I can offer. Attacks like this will continue to receive little airplay in mainstream media because it’s neither proximate nor unusual. The perception of Africa from an American mindset is that violence is just the nature of that continent and there’s nothing you or I could do about the barbaric actions of those militant groups.
The average homicide rate per 100,000 people in the U.S. between 2010 and 2012 was five according to The World Bank. Per 100,000 people in Kenya the same rate was six. You can’t maintain that perception when the rate of violence is relatively similar between the two countries.
We can’t continue to take our freedom of religion for granted as al-Shabaab militants, ISIS and any other militant group in foreign countries continue to kill those who don’t follow their misguided version of Islam. This attack should matter more than figuring it’s something that happened in a foreign land seemingly as far away from the U.S. as Mars is to Earth. It should be something that affects the global community.
It should be our moral responsibility as a nation to fight for the freedom of religion internationally. No one’s willing to put their foot down though and say enough is enough. It’s a haunting aspect of the fatigue our country is currently recovering from, having been in multiple Middle Eastern wars over the last 14 years.