Solving International Crises Is More Important Than Restoring Historic Buildings

Opinion

By Keana Saberi, Reporter

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On April 15th, flames engulfed the centuries old Notre Dame Cathedral, leaving France in despair. The fire blazed through one of the cathedral’s spires and the roof collapsed in ruin. In the aftermath of the burning of the historical cathedral, people all over the world rapidly helped raise money for the rebuilding project.  Many see preserving historical buildings to their original states as very important, but the nearly one billion dollars which was raised should be put to better use such as aiding those in third-world countries. Some say that the money raised should instead be donated to international crisis organizations and to those in poverty.

Since the fire plagued Notre Dame, almost a billion dollars has been collected for restoration. Parts of the original cathedral from the 12th and 13th centuries burned to a crisp. An iconic French symbol was engulfed in flames. While the cathedral already has enough funding to be pieced together again, people, not only in France but around the world, are starving and living in some of the worst conditions imaginable. The Global Homelessness Statistics reported that in 2012, nearly 141,500 homeless individuals lived in France, and that number is doubtlessly not decreasing. The fortune poured into this one building should instead be used to help the many hungry, penniless, and people in need of essential life necessities. Even though the fire was tragic, it is a minor issue compared to the suffering many people endure.  

When I heard about the cathedral, I was devastated. I, like many other tourists and locals alike marveled at the beauty and history the building held. This event signaled the fall of a French national treasure. Yet when death, illness, and lack of proper shelter plague nations around the world, a moral dilemma truly arises. The billions spent on historic buildings truly shows what is valued more than human prosperity and access to life necessities. This nods to what is important in modern western societies. Wealthy, affluent benefactors from across the world raced to donate to the rebuilding of the church, but where were these generous individuals in times of need in Yemen or Syria where civil war infects like a disease? Some even claim these philanthropists are not willing to help those truly in need but to contribute to projects such as the rebuilding of the Notre Dame to be seen as giving while they are part of the privileged one percent.

This is where the morality of this issue comes into play. Historical buildings are often seen as the foundation of a country, the cornerstone to all the nation aspires and strives for. When the Notre Dame was up in flames, French citizens gathered around the embers to sing hymns. The solemn tunes helped people reminisce of the days of French glory and even the tragedy of the French defeat during the Revolution in France. This one building symbolized all of that: France as a country, signifying history and centuries of past. While this building may be restored to a glimpse of its former honor, according to the Global Humanitarian Overview (GHO) there is 135.3 million people in the world in dire need of assistance from crises. Nearly 25.2 billion dollars still needs to be raised but clearly in the minds of many this is of minimal importance.

This is just one instance of an ongoing problem. Notre Dame is just one textbook example. It needs to be understood what is of high priority and what is not. It isn’t black and white in the sense that one is worth more than the other in the eyes of the public. It’s a muddled grey puddle of principles and morals that needs to be sorted out.