I had a plan for my blog this week; I’d done the research and knew what I wanted to say. But when news of a terror attack in Stockholm, my hometown, reached me, my plan fell apart.
Last Friday afternoon, a man drove a truck down a popular shopping street and into a department store. Four people – including two Swedes, one Brit and a Belgian – died and 15 people were wounded in the attack.
Still enjoying my holiday in the Canary Islands when the attack took place, I was deeply shocked by the incident, and my first thought was to check that friends and family in Stockholm were safe.
In contrast, when a British man deliberately ploughed his car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and outside the Houses of Parliament last month, also killing four people, my response was muted. Perhaps that’s because London is no stranger to terror attacks and remains almost perpetually on high alert.
At the time, I was sitting in a movie theatre in north-west London together with my daughter and her classmates, and Westminster seemed very far away. I was even a little annoyed when text messages started coming in from people asking if my family and I were ok. Although London has been my home for almost 18 years now, the subsequent attack in Stockholm felt much more personal.
Two days after the Stockholm attack, the BBC reported that more than forty people had died when bombs exploded outside two Christian churches in the Egyptian cities of Tanta and Alexandria. As tragic as the deaths in Stockholm were, the attacks in Egypt prompted me to take another look at the almost daily terror that occur around the world, and this is what I discovered:
On 7 April, the day of the Stockholm terror attack, seven people were killed in Nigeria in an attack led by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
In Mogadishu, 15 Somalis lost their lives on 9 April in an attack orchestrated by Al-Shabaab, a jihadist group based in East Africa.
On 10 April, furthermore, as many as five terror attacks around the world took place, including Somalia where ten people lost their lives; South Sudan, where also ten deaths were reported; and in Iraq where an attack claimed by the Islamic State killed 12 people. And then there’s Syria, where men, women and children are killed daily, most recently in a government-led gas attack.
Yet, terror attacks in Europe receive vastly more media coverage and public attention than any attack, no matter how deadly, in other parts of the world. Because despite liberal Europeans’ pledge of allegiance to universal human rights and racial equality, the hard reality is that the colour of your skin still matters.
While I wouldn’t want to diminish the tragedy of the lives lost in London and Stockholm, it bears reminding that, ultimately, losing a child, parent or loved one in a violent attack is an unfathomable tragedy for anyone, whether Swedish, British, Somali, Egyptian or Iraqi. All lives matter.