Quite a few years ago, back in 2003, I was daydreaming on a train when I suddenly heard a massive explosion. I had been in Israel for quite a while at that point but it was my first close encounter with a suicide bomber. It wasn't the last in my 18 months there, and it was sadly a common occurrence for people who live there, whether they were Christian, Muslim or Jewish, or of no religious affiliation whatsoever. This particular incident however touched me to the core as quite a few children died.
At the same time I always marveled at the fact that Israelis continued their lives without fear, moved on while still remembering and continued to live and love life to the fullest. In all honesty I have still never felt safer in a country than I did in Israel in 2003 and 2004. Granted, things are a little different there now, and there are many issues that I don't agree with (especially the hardcore right-wing government and the continued allowing of illegal settlements), but I will always admire the resilience I saw in those days, no matter the religion.
I moved to NYC in 2005, four years after 9/11. Again, I encountered strong, resilient people who had seen hell and were adamant about crawling back towards the light. Just a month or so after I arrived in NYC the Tube bombing happened in London, on a line that I had taken frequently that past year. London grieved and grew stronger, just like Paris and NYC had done before and would again.
Over the past few years we have seen an upscale of terrorist attacks in both Europe and the US, but there have also been more and more of them in the Middle East, less talked about but just as important.
Terrorism doesn't belong to a religion or to a group of people, it is a word used to describe an act that is performed with the direct consequence of causing terror within a population.
It's very important to remember this in these times. It's very important to remember that these attacks are performed by a few people and not by an entire population or a religion. It is important to remember that the radical Muslim who drove into a group of people is made of the same ilk as the far-right anti-Muslim man who stabbed three people on a train after they stood up to protect the two women he was attacking. It's important to remember that a child dying after a concert in Manchester is just as relevant as a child dying while buying ice cream in Baghdad. We are ALL human and the majority of us are in agreement that we must fight together to eradicate this violence and hatred.
Some cities have been hit worse than others, some countries are not seeing any respite from terror, and some areas brace themselves but are left alone for now. The main focus of these attacks is to create fear, paranoia and divide within a population, aiming for a rise in hatred. We cannot let this happen: instead we must reach out to everyone in our communities and make sure that everyone feels included. It breaks my heart that one day soon I will have to explain evil to my children, but it breaks my heart even more that I currently have friends who have to explain to their children that those who perpetrate acts of violence in the name of religion are not really representing their religion. Religion is their excuse, a blanket of fur to hide a cloak of hatred and violence.
We will not join in. Whether we pray to a god or not, we will not take sides against each other, instead we will unite as one, all religions, skin colors, nationalities, sexual orientations and beliefs together, to stand strong.
Ariana Grande did a wonderful job in organizing a concert in Manchester, just a few weeks after so many people died due a to suicide bomber outside her own concert. Bringing people together is what we need to do, not alienate them. Fight against fear and against violence, together as one.
A few years ago while walking through Montego Bay, a wise old Rastafarian told me his values: Peace, Love, Unity and One Blood. I had these words tattooed on my leg shortly after coming home as a constant reminder that we are ONE. And this reminder is a main thread in my parenting values as well as my personal values: my children will be raised to value difference, to nurture the world, and to eliminate fear and hatred. One day we will get it right, but in the meantime we need to stand strong and to continue to hold hands, because together we will always be stronger. We will not allow ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our fellow sisters and brothers to be terrorized.
Jade Anna Hughes is a writer and photographer who was born in the UK, grew up in France, called NYC home for a decade before relocating to the California sun. She has two young daughters, another child on the way, and spends most of her “spare” time writing, reading and trying to change the world. Her first book, With Spring Comes Hope, is currently available on Amazon and B&N worldwide.