To the Lehigh Community:
My name is Matthew Cossel and I am a junior journalism and global studies major who is currently studying abroad in Switzerland for the semester. I’m going to get straight to the point: I am very upset by the attacks in Brussels about which I have been reading all morning and my heart goes out to all those who must mourn the death of a friend, a family member, or a colleague. To my friends on campus: do not worry about my safety, because I do not. I am safe and sound here in Geneva and will continue to be. Rather, I press you to worry for the state of our world and international community.
Allow me to explain.
There is a current trend within countries, including our own, of turning toward nationalism and xenophobia and I put it to you to reject these feelings. These are ideas and ideologies that only foster more violence and hatred. As I sit here in Switzerland, it would be easy to think “how sad,” and then continue about my day. With the other terrorist attacks in my lifetime, that is what I’ve done, but as I see heightened tensions and the current rhetoric being used by those in power today, I can’t do that anymore. The powers that be will come out to the public and condemn the acts of the terrorists, they will say that we need to hold those responsible accountable for their actions, and react with force on the groups who foster such radicalization. These are reasonable feelings to have and I am not rationalizing what was done nor am I saying that this is at all acceptable but please, before jumping to conclusions as so, think of why a person would consider doing such a heinous act against innocent civilians. It is vital that we realize these issues are not black and white. We cannot continue to react to violence by simply evoking more violence. It is time we address these issues at their source.
Why do terrorists feel this is their only option?
Currently, there is an Islamic population that feels marginalized within Belgium and other countries simply due to their faith and marginalization leads only to radicalization. It is time that people tear down the barriers that divide them. I am not speaking of a world without identity, where each person is one and the same. I am merely speaking of a world of coexistence. In such a world, people do not have to agree on everything, what’s necessary is only understanding. Understanding the feelings of those around you can go a long way in diffusing tension.
I do recognize myself as an American citizen, but more so, I see myself as a global citizen. And as a global citizen, I can no longer sit idly by while I see hatred and xenophobia run rampant within my own country and abroad.
I place it on you, reader, to not respond to these heinous acts with more violence and hatred, but with coexistence and understanding. If we can have a world surrounding these two virtues, think of how different our lives could be, of how many lives could have been and could be saved. I do not deny there will continue to be evil and that not all hatred can be alleviated, but a world centered on our similarities instead of our differences would be beneficial for all.
–Matthew Cossel, ’17