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Editorial: Lacking media attention, some news should spark our prayer

The attack on Paris journalists has rightly drawn our outrage and our solidarity with the victims. As the popes have said so well, there is no justification for murdering people in the name of God.

At the same time, some have wondered why another attack, one which occurred around the same time and was rooted in a similar terrorist ideology and took innocent life on a vaster scale, got so little notice.

The massacre in Nigeria was perpetrated by Boko Haram, a group like the so-called Islamic State, best known in the United States for kidnapping 276 Nigerian girls, mostly Christian, last April. The group is seizing territory in Africa and killing Christians and Muslims.

On Jan. 3 the group carried out what may be its deadliest attack yet in the Nigerian town of Baga, burning buildings on a scale that is best measured by satellite photos and massacring civilians. No one knows how many are dead. Estimates range from dozens to 2,000. Many were women and children unable to flee.

Why did this receive less attention than the attack in Paris? Media analyst Ethan Zuckerman, writing at "The Conversation," suggests some plausible reasons. Paris is a media hub, while Baga is not. Even Nigeria's government has downplayed the situation. Western audiences have an easier time relating to French journalists than they do with Nigerian victims who had to worry about hippo attacks in their flight from terrorists.

And he suggests another reason, an awful truth: We've become accustomed to stories like this. It simply isn't novel, isn't "new."

"Old" news stories like these massacres and atrocities can leave us with a kind of "compassion fatigue," where we find it harder to bring ourselves to care. As such they represent a test of our solidarity.

Christians pray. It's our lifeblood. That life of prayer includes intercessory prayer -- bringing the needs and welfare of others to the merciful heart of Jesus, and at times to the foot of his cross, begging for mercy.

Sometimes you'll see the expression "news you can use." One of the best ways to "use" the news is as an inspiration for prayer. When we skim the headlines in print, online or in a broadcast, we should not let catastrophe in a faraway, unfamiliar place slide by. Instead we should pause to pray for those affected. As the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson famously said, "more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of."