Editorial: We mourn with those who mourn

Last week, 147 Kenyan women and men, most of them students, were slaughtered in the dormitory of their college. At our own college, we should be reeling. We should be devastated.

So often, the tragedies in the world seem vague and hard to grasp. But we can imagine this, being woken in our dorm rooms in the night. The confusion. The terror.

The truth is that these students were our demographic. Like us, they must have been thinking about homework assignments, career paths, friends, how to best serve God in this broken world. All of that, in a night of senseless brutality — over.

Online and in the media, it seems the story is already over too. In fact, many students that we talked to on our campus were unaware that it had even happened.

This has caused us at Chimes to talk about the messages media sends when deciding which stories to cover, as well as the messages we send when deciding which stories to read and to share.

So often, we feel, these messages say that we value some lives more than others.

Why is it that when a beloved celebrity dies, tributes and biographies flood the internet for months, while a tragedy of this proportion is met with comparative silence? Why aren’t we more vocal about this? Why aren’t we outraged?

Not all media has been silent. Notably, the Twitter hashtag #147NotJustANumber has taken up the cause of humanizing the deaths. Using the hashtag, family and friends share names, faces, facts.

More than a string of statistics or a recent hit in a line of terrorist activity, this was Purity Kawira. Branton Wakhungu. Fredrick Okoth. Agnes Mwendi. And dozens more names that have been identified.

The mainstream media, however, has been remiss in this regard. Perhaps it is because we, as their audience, have not demanded it.

Perhaps it is our job as readers to demand the coverage of any loss of life. If taken seriously, we could go so far as to demand the story of every single death — 147 stories for 147 students. Hearing each story would force us to face the enormity of this loss. It would remind the world that every life matters.

But maybe this isn’t realistic. If we took the time to acknowledge every death in the world, every Syrian child caught in the crosshairs, every Honduran teen shot in a border crossing, every North Korean prisoner, the reality of our world is that our journalists would have time to report nothing else.

Our coverage cannot be comprehensive, but it should at least be representative. We may not be able to share every story, but we can at least listen to those have experienced loss, and use our voice to share the resulting outrage in the world.

We can draw attention to this at least in our community. We can at least provide the opportunity for others to think about this and to care.

In a world where every time we turn on the radio or open up the news, another tragedy is demanding attention, we remember the hope that our Kenyan brothers and sisters shared — that someday our world will be remade with peace and justice as its cornerstones.

Until then, we do what we can — mourn with those who mourn, remember those who were lost, pray for our broken world, and fight the discrimination and persecution within it.

Correction: This article originally stated that Garissa University, the college where the shootings took place, was a Christian college. While the students who were murdered were held hostage and shot because they were Christians, the university is not, itself, Christian.