The Faces Behind The Headlines

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

The news in recent weeks has carried an unusual number of stories about awful tragedies that have occurred around the globe.
I’m thinking of the sinking of the Indonesian submarine in which 53 sailors were lost in the depths of the ocean; the inferno at the hospital in Iraq that killed 82, mostly Covid patients; the 41 refugees who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea when their rickety boat sank as they attempted a perilous crossing; and the growing, horrendous Covid disaster in India where more than 200,000 people have died, the hospitals are filled, and the fields are littered with too many bodies to count.
This sad litany now includes the panicked stampede at a holy site in Israel where 45 were trampled to death and many more were injured; and here, closer to home, the thousands of abandoned immigrant children who have been warehoused in crowded conditions because of failed immigration policies and political gridlock.
As we encounter these terribly sad stories, it’s a temptation to gloss over them, and then move quickly onto the challenges and events of our own daily lives.
But our faith calls us to something more, and that is to consider the human cost of these tragedies and to picture the people involved. All the people who died in these disasters – they were husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters. In many cases they left behind grieving family members and beloved friends with their own personal stories, and even those who survived – their lives have been forever scarred by the events they’ve endured.
Pope Francis has repeatedly lamented the culture of indifference, and has challenged us to be one human family in caring for others, wherever, whoever they might be. In his encyclical Fratelli Tutti, the Pope calls us to a fraternal love “that transcends the boundaries of geography and distance.” And in his reflection, Let us Dream, he says: “Sometimes when you think globally, you can be paralyzed . . . I find it helps to focus on concrete situations; You can see faces looking for life and love in the reality of each person.”
In dealing with the harsh realities of our broken world, our Christian Faith obliges us to look at the faces behind the headlines, to remember and pray.
Something to think about: The next time you hear about a tragedy in our world, stop for a moment and say a prayer for those who are affected.


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