“All lives matter.” This statement has been an inclusive response to the unrest we have experienced in our communities. Rather than extolling the rights of one particular race or class, the most appropriate message is that no life is less worthy of the dignity and respect due to all people, for we are made in the image and likeness of God
The phrase came to my mind again last week during the coverage of the terrorist attacks in France. The supposed reason for the attacks was a perceived disrespect for the Islamic faith. The attackers in turn violated theright to free speech, no matter how ugly, and the most essential right that even the lives of our enemies matter. As disturbing as this event was, I found the lack of attention given to terrorist attacks in Nigeria last week, to be a painful reminder that our public reactions often reveal that all lives don’t matter equally.
Last Saturday, explosives, strapped to a girl who appeared to be about 10-years-old, detonated, killing at least 20 people in a Nigerian village. Furthermore it is believed that militants killed as many as 2,000 people, mostly Nigerian civilians, in a massacre that started the weekend before the terror attack in Paris. While world leaders united in Paris to stand in solidarity against terrorism, hardly a public statement was made about the atrocities in Nigeria. In fact, Nigeria’s own president publicly expressed sympathy and Nigeria's "full solidarity" with the people of France, but he failed to do the same for the victims of terrorism in his own country. Do not all lives matter?
This week hundreds of thousands of people will participate in the annual March for Life in Washington D.C. Some estimates say that 1 in 4 Americans who live east of the Mississippi river participate in this event each year. During any given year there will be extensive media coverage of rallies and marches that garner hundreds, or at the most, thousands of participants yet this march is hardly ever reported. Do not all lives matter? Do not demonstrations advocating a respect for life matter?
The reason people of all faiths and ethnicities participate in the March for Life, is very simply that, all lives matter. Why do we see so many acts of violence athome and abroad? It is simply because our societies have devolved into accepting that certain lives don’t matter. Poverty and racism are a result of a genuine acceptance that some lives matter less than others. At the root of the pro-life movement is the very simple belief that, all lives matter. If I cannot state unequivocally that the LIFE of an unborn child matters, where is my credibility when I profess that the lives of the poor, minorities, and other underrepresented people matter?
St. Paul teaches us that we are all equally members of the body of Christ and our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Therefore all lives matter. We cannot accept that the victims of terrorism in one country seem to matter more than victims in another land. We cannot accept that lives of the victims of poverty, racism and violence deserve our attention any more than the millions of unborn lives that are lost each year. Nor can we say that these unborn lives matter more than their mothers and fathers who are terrified by a crisis pregnancy.
I pray that each of us who take this faith of ours seriously, examine our conscience, and reevaluate those times and places in our lives when we did not respect the dignity of life. For in the eyes of God – all lives matter.