Saturday, 5 September 2015

Feeling Small in the Face of the Syrian Crisis

This is the week where my newsfeed erupted with pictures of dead Syrian babies, the week where for once I struggled to correct my own daughter who caught a glimpse of one of the pictures and commented “baby sleeping”. The picture put me in mind of another one, this time a mental image, of Mennonite babies succumbing to hypothermia as families fled massacre & terror across the frozen Steppe. And I thought of how I live in a country populated by immigrants & refugees. We, their children & grandchildren, are the lucky ones. Can we fail to be less generous to those suffering now, when the foundation of our present good fortune was built by those who lost much and risked much and found a safe haven in North America?

Everyone seems to agree that an indefinable something needs to change, although there is no consensus on what. We’re not sure how much we should be politicizing one photo, because we aren’t quite sure at what point an impetus for change simply becomes exploitation for political agenda in an election year. Should we be focusing on pressuring to increase refugee quotas or on finding reputable charities to give aid to those left in refugee camps? Should countries be letting in illegal migrants, or will that only make an unsolvable problem worse?

I sit here, trying to figure out how much to tune in or out. To do nothing in the face of horror seems inhuman, yet most actions seem so futile when one considers the actual size of the crisis. It's like putting a bandaid on a gaping wound. We may even effect change but it’s not going to solve the actual problem, because even if we could somehow fix the Syria problem, the problem of war & terror & refugees & dead babies would move to another group & another country (only a year ago we were clamoring about Boko Haram and kidnapped girls).

Yet every life saved, every piece of aid or relief given, is an act of mercy even in the face of unending evil. It is our participation in these works of mercy, our small voices united into a clamour against the evil that men bring against men, that allows us to retain the goodness, the conscience, of our humanity. I have no solutions beyond that, but I know that we must continue to care and to clamour and to do whatever part is given to us to counter evil with love.

“There is no oppression of a group of people but that which has its root and inception in the hearts of the oppressors. There is no wild lawlessness and riot and bloodlust of a mob but that which has its place in the hearts of the persons who are that mob. Just so, if justice and fairness and kindness fill the minds of a crowd of persons, those things will be shown in their actions. So, if we are eager to help in putting the world to rights, our first duty is to put ourselves right, to overcome our selfishness and be as eager that others shall be treated fairly as we are that no advantage shall be taken of ourselves; and to deal justly and have a loving charity and mercy for others as we wish them to have for us”. – Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1919

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