clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A striking and rare US tribute to the victims of Pakistan’s terrorist attack Sunday

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

On Easter Sunday, as families gathered at Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore, Pakistan, a bomb targeting Christians killed at least 69 people, many of them women and children. Hundreds more were injured.

The bombings weren't greeted with the outpouring of tributes and vigils that accompanied the attacks in Brussels, Belgium, on Tuesday. But there was at least one exception: A Dallas hotel, the Omni, was lit up with the Pakistani flag on Sunday night in honor of the victims.

After the attacks in Brussels, One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the US, displayed the colors of the Belgian Flag. So did landmarks across London; the Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin; the Eiffel Tower, in Paris; and the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai.

When false rumors circulated on social media that the Eiffel Tower was lit up with Pakistani colors on Sunday to honor the victims of the Lahore attacks (the photo was actually from 2007, and had nothing to do with Pakistan), Paris's city government gave a blunt statement explaining why different attacks merit different levels of attention.

"There are attacks regularly around the world, and we honor the victims in different ways," according to a statement given to the Europe 1 radio network. "The attacks in Brussels have a special resonance because we have an exceptional link with Brussels."

Lighting up monuments is a symbolic gesture. But the debate over how much attention people pay to deaths and tragedy in non-Western countries is often about symbols: headlines, rallies, tributes.

As Max Fisher wrote for Vox in November, after an outcry over whether the media had paid too much attention to the attacks in Paris relative to those in Beirut, the outrage is not only about the media:

It's about a sense that the world at large has ignored Beirut's trauma and that it ignores similar traumas throughout the world if they occur in the wrong places; that it does not offer the same sympathy to victims outside of wealthy or Western countries… There's more than just a supposed lack of media coverage at stake here, and the world's attention manifests itself in ways beyond just the frequency or attendance of sympathy rallies.