15th March marks the 6-year anniversary of the Syrian conflict. It’s crushing to read another report from Unicef, and to know that as I work on reports or proposals I’ll be updating them with these latest, still worse statistics.
And yet these overwhelming figures can somehow become meaningless to us. Stories like this one can be more heart-stopping:
And I re-think the thought I have thought so many times in the last years: What if what we’re doing is not enough?
Usually I like to share stories of hope – of which there are many – often hidden, but significant beyond measure in this crisis. And these stories, and the people they represent, are what hold me precariously back from the brink of falling into despair.
But in these last few weeks in Lebanon, I’ve seen and heard how many of these courageous and self-giving people are deeply feeling the burden of what they do never being enough, never providing a complete solution: no place for a teenage girl to go back to school, no way to provide enough food for every family who needs it, no way to fully protect an abused child. These are the burdens of people I love, and so they are my burdens too.
Are we satisfied to care only in sporadic, media-ordained bursts? To care about Aleppo for a week or two, sign petitions, perhaps shed some tears – and then move on until the news reminds us again (depending on how much of our news-space US politics and Brexit don’t fill).
And I know it’s not possible to care about everything, all the time, and that it’s important to recognise and be grateful for what we do have, and not to be motivated by guilt.
But I can’t shake the feeling that isn’t this something that could break our hearts continually?
Reading my friend Jesse’s blog post recently reminded me that there’s good reason for feeling like this – whatever arguments we might have to prevent us acting, these pale against the reality that, “When it concerns children, there is never such a thing as collateral damage.”
These passages show the posture that might be appropriate in light of the current realities of the way the world is for children:
‘My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within; my heart is poured out on the ground… because children and infants faint in the streets of the city… their lives ebb away in their mothers’ arms.’
‘Teach one another a lament. Death has… removed the children from the streets.’
This situation breaks the heart of God in every moment of every day.
And so, until there is peace, I think this situation calls for more from us:
More than a few days of feeling outraged a couple of times per year
Even though it’s not our responsibility
Even though it’s really complicated
Even though political change is needed and beyond our reach somehow
Even though there seems to be no end
Even though we don’t understand
Because in the end, these are our children.
And what does that mean?
I don’t think it means feeling more guilty.
More likely it means seeking renewed compassion and taking an action.
Here are some actions I might try:
- Pray intentionally. Set aside 10 minutes a day for a week to pray for Syrian children, using this Unicef report as your guide. Pray for an issue each day and ask God to help you learn to lament and to give you his compassion and the prayers of his heart for these children.
‘Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children.’
- Give more than you’re comfortable giving (there are many organisations working with Syrian children but some I personally know well are Tahaddi, Merath, Tearfund, Embrace, Viva). Give up something you would have bought to give more than you planned to. While there isn’t a total solution here, more resources simply can make a huge difference.
- Commit to reading news about the situation once a week or once a month whether or not the conflict has a high profile in the media.
- Find out how your local area has responded to refugees and get to know them.
Whatever you do, and whether it is in this situation or one of the very many others, like Yemen or South Sudan, there is too much brokenness here to comfortably ignore.
And somehow, the more we lose – the more we lay down – the more we will find, as we become part of what God is doing to bring change and hope in the lives of children.
Includes pictures and quotes from Unicef’s current report available here
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