James Foley and the importance of bearing witness

It’s been more than a week since the world found out — in the grimmest way possible — that American journalist James Foley had been murdered at the hands of ISIS militants.  Foley went missing in 2012 while covering the Syrian Civil War.

I did not know James Foley, but as a fellow journalist I feel a certain kinship toward him. The work I do as an assistant editor at a West Virginia newspaper is worlds away from his work on the front lines of a war.

I’ve dreamed of being a conflict reporter because I think the stories of war and human suffering are immensely important. Someone has to bear witness to the human toll of war. Still I don’t know that I’m brave enough to be a war journalist.

So I’m grateful for him and other reporters who are risking, and sometimes giving, their lives telling of the atrocities of a war that’s claimed more than 160,000 human lives.  So far 69 journalists have killed covering this particular conflict, according to the Committee to Protect Reporters.

I hope it’s some comfort to his family and friends that the work he did matters.

While, as I said, it’s important to bear witness, I don’t think that means viewing the graphic video of his death. If you want to honor the life of a man who died trying to tell stories of war, familiarize yourself with his work. You can find some of it here.


The real Christian

We were walking down Lee Street when she saw us. It was hot and we had been to get iced coffee. She must have noticed my hand in his when she approached us with a broad smile on her face.

“Excuse me. I’d like to apologize to you and your wife,” she said as an introduction, even though we aren’t married.

She continued, “But do you happen to have any change? The Lord hates it when I don’t take care of myself. I just want you to know I pay my tithe. I’m a real Christian.”

I reached for my wallet, even though I knew I’d spent my last dollar on the coffee I was still sipping on.

“Sorry, I don’t,” I said after looking into a coin pocket.

And that was when the real, tithe-paying Christian told us off.