Syria. How did we get here?
I cannot trace the beginnings of this heinous conflict, nor can I tell you what either side is fighting for. Technically, I am completely oblivious to the civil war in Syria. But I am not oblivious to the suffering. Perhaps it is better that I know so little. Sometimes when we get too close, we can only see what we want. Who should win and who should lose. And that is when we create our own reality to fit the events into. It is how we lose sight of what is really happening.
Syria has captured my heart this year. Images of civilians caught in the crossfire (or maybe fire that is intentional), refugees on rafts, and children dying have been inescapable. I have been particularly affected by Syrian refugees. My support for allowing them into the country wavered only after the attacks in Nice, France. Even then it was not enough to dispel my feelings. To me it has always been simple. If you are not safe in the place you call home, of course you would leave. We would all do that. It is the logical thing to do. But where do you go when you leave? Shouldn’t the answer be to a place that welcomes you with open arms? Just as we have shelters and measures in place for those who must leave their unsafe homes within our country, shouldn’t we treat others the same?
I think what truly solidified the pain I have felt for Syria was the video of a little boy named Omran. Even if you don’t recognize his name, I’m sure you have seen him. He was captured calmly sitting in a chair wiping blood from his face, covered in soot and ash and who knows what other debris. Omran did nothing. He was just going about his life doing the things little boys do. I am sure he did not plan on nor want to experience bombings and explosions and the hurt of living in a war-torn country.
“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
– Matthew 18:4
This may seem rich coming from someone who is so interested in politics, but leaders are very good at talking. Talking in circles and saying the loveliest, prettiest things that will put your mind and heart at ease. They will tell you anything to win your approval because most of them are convinced that their job is not actually to lead, but to keep you satisfied and at peace because that is how they avoid conflict. Conflict must be avoided at all costs. Even if it means watching people suffer while they refuse to get involved because they don’t want their country having any part of a war that is not theirs.
After World War II, the victorious allies (who comprise the nations that we now refer to as “first-world countries”) vowed that such an atrocity would never happen again. There would never be another genocide. This is a promise that has been repeated by many leaders over the years. Apparently it is an empty one. If it held any meaning, surely we would not be in this position now.
I am a strong proponent of American exceptionalism. I believe I live in the greatest country in the world. Patriotism is a good thing. Loving your country is a good thing. But sometimes I think it gets in our way. We get so focused on how we are our own country that we forget that before there were borders and nationalities and languages, there were children of God. God loves no one person more than another. Jesus did not die for only one group of people. We are not commanded to only love our neighbor if he or she looks like us. That is missing the point entirely.
I cannot imagine what it must be like for the people of a country that is currently breaking at the seams from battle and has always been underprivileged to watch people in other countries go about their lives as if nothing has happened. So, to the people of Syria, we have not forgotten you. We may not be there with you, but we know what is happening and we are hurting with you. We are praying for you and loving you across continents and oceans and miles.
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
– John 13:34-35