Struck by the faces of war
The war in Syria has raged for five years. In the past 12 months, two pictures have grabbed the world's attention like no other. They are those of Aylan Kurdi and Omran Daqneesh.
In September 2015, it was the picture of three-year-old Aylan lying face-down in the shallows of the Mediterranean Sea in which he drowned. His family had attempted to flee the violence in Syria.
In August 2016 it is five-year-old Omran, the dusty and bloodied boy sitting stunned in the back of an ambulance. His family had attempted to stay in Syria. Omran survived the blast that injured him, but his brother didn't.
One family chose to leave, the other chose to stay. Neither of the two decisions would have been easy, and neither was able to keep their families safe.
I cannot even begin to fathom the war in Syria. The pain, the trauma, the conflict, the emotion, the destruction. I don't even dare consider what children like Omran must have gone through to leave them so numb, so utterly traumatised. I can't imagine what it must be like to be a parent in an active conflict zone. It is all beyond my comprehension.
Such vivid images elicit a response
How are we not outraged to the point of action? Surely these are the images that activate and mobilise a worldwide response to end this war. Apparently not. Aylan's death wasn't enough. For if it were, the world would never have known little Omran.
Once we become aware of something, we respond. Our response may be of care and compassion, or complete disregard. I, like many of you, can feel so overwhelmed by the despair that I don't know what I can do to make a difference. But I believe that this doesn't have to be their life. Not responding is not an option.
Your response may be apathy. You hear, you know, you see. Perhaps you feel sad for Omran, perhaps you don't consider it your problem to deal with. You have chosen to respond with apathy.
Your response may be advocacy. You have been moved by the news headlines and you choose to spread the word. Hopefully you are advocating an end to the war. Hopefully you are advocating assistance for refugees. Sharing relevant links on social media can be a form of advocacy. Let me urge you though, to be thoughtful in what you share, like, or post, and be diligent in communicating constructively. If you respond with advocacy, advocate a well-informed message.
Your response may be petition. Petition your government to contribute more to seeking and making peace. Petition your government to welcome refugees. Petition your own heart to be open to doing so. Petition God to bring about change, and to give wisdom to how you and others respond to the crisis. If your response is to petition, petition with an attitude of peace.
Your response may be to give. Funding the humanitarian response is a practical way to respond. Research which organisations are working in the region. Find out who is working in your local country with refugees. Contribute to enable those who are trained and able to respond. If you respond through giving, give thoughtfully.
Your response may be to go. Some are trained to work in these situations now. Others may offer a few weeks to volunteer on the borders where refugees are crossing into Europe. Those committed to the long haul of rebuilding post-war will have to spend time learning the language, and being trained to contribute to the long term stability of the situation. Not all are in a position to go, but if that is your response, go in humility and love.
What account will you give?
In Matthew chapter 25, verses 37-40, Jesus makes it very clear that to choose a Christian life is to respond with of some kind of action.
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'
Aylan and Omran, I promise to respond with more than just apathy to the war that has defined your lives.
Chloe is an Australian writer. She loves weekend breakfasts with friends, and embraces life as an extrovert, a detail-oriented thinker, and a verbal processor.