Have you ever had one of those days where all of the pain and suffering in the world comes into focus, deeming you incapacitated to do anything? Yesterday was that day for me. As my three-year-old tried to recruit me into play, I obliged but couldn’t truly engage. My thoughts and my heart were, and still are, elsewhere. I am mourning with the people of Paris, Lebanon, Beirut, Syria, Baghdad, Mexico… I am mourning with the world.
I am mourning for my children.
The source of my mourning is rooted in the cruelty and selfishness of humanity, not specifically terrorism. While social media – specifically Facebook – erupted with hashtags of support, new filters to put over profile pictures, and news articles about the calculated attacks on Paris, other posts quickly cropped up, too. Attacks on Muslims and anti-Syrian rhetoric. Memes claiming that the welcoming of Syrians correlates to the welcoming of terrorists, specifically ISIS. Individuals that countered this notion were met with resistance and the conversations reached a stalemate, at best, and became volatile, at worst. With each post and disagreement, I felt increased sadness, and admittedly, disgust, for humanity.
Photo released by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Residents of the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk, lining up to receive food supplies, in Damascus, Syria. Photo credit: UNRWA via AP, File
Sadness for those that have lost people due to an earthquake or hurricane or the horrific acts of terrorism. Disgust by the selfishness, cruelty and lack of empathy for human life, specifically the lives of over 4 million Syrian refugees currently displaced. For those of you that don’t know, here are a few facts, courtesy of Amnesty International and World Vision, regarding the Syrian refugee crisis:
- Approximately 220,000 people have been killed.
- 12 million people have fled their homes; half are children.
- 12.8 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria.
- More than 50% of Syria’s population is currently displaced.
- More than 4 million refugees from Syria are in five countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.
- The UN humanitarian appeal for Syrian refugees is just 40% funded.
- Funding shortages mean that the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in Lebanon receive less than half a dollar a day for food assistance ($13.50/month).
- More than 80% of Syrian refugees in Jordan live below the local poverty line.
Here’s the deal. Bad things are already happening.
- Sex trafficking/child pornography
- Natural disasters
With the exception of natural disasters, each issue shares some commonality: each has a person or group that seeks to exert power over another person, group or nation; each is often birthed from people experiencing poverty, socio-economic challenges, social-political challenges, cultural dissent and/or war [ii] [iii]. Often, natural disasters create an environment of poverty and socio-economic challenges.
What’s my point?
When people/groups are vulnerable it gives root to exploitation and desperation, and a person will often make poor decisions when he/she feels desperate.
The current living conditions in refugee camps can easily perpetuate or breed issues within an already vulnerable population, leaving them susceptible to crime, abuse, and terrorist recruitment [iv] [v] [vi]. Yes, terrorist recruitment. Terrorist leaders target vulnerable populations, specifically youth, during transitionary and uncertain times. Don’t we want to prevent the expansion of terrorism? Assuming this is a unanimous “yes!” then why wouldn’t we choose to assist those most susceptible to recruitment?
Why don’t we choose to embrace compassion over cruelty, acknowledging that by not doing anything we are basically saying we are willing to watch them die?
Why don’t we choose to cling to faith over fear, remembering that despite the worst of humanity we have the opportunity to be the best? (If you’re a Christian, what does Jesus say about faith and fear [vii]?)
Why don’t we choose to see that love and light conquer terror and darkness? (Again, if you’re a Christian, look to Jesus [viii] and remember that He has already conquered death – the battle has been won.)
Yes, something must be done about terrorism and ISIS in our world; however, denying the refugees from Syria access to a better future shouldn’t be considered a step in the right direction to end or prevent terrorism. We cannot punish millions of people for the destruction caused by a few.
Further, making decisions while in a state of fear means we are making irrational decisions. Fear clouds rational thought, much like hate or rage. And, if we are making decisions rooted in fear, how are we any better than terrorists that are making decisions rooted in hate and rage?
Syrian children at Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. Photo credit: Khalil Hamra, Associated Press
Look, we are all anxious about the future of our world. Rather than perpetuate the problems of our current day by acting out in fear, let’s choose to rise above it, embracing the good and being the good in humanity.
So, while my heart hurts today, and I am mourning for my children, I am going to choose to show them what light, love, compassion and humility look like. I am going to share stories with them about the people I have observed rise above fear. People like my former University Professor that has offered her professional skills to teach ESL to newcomers. People that have given to the Red Cross, hoping to see the UN’s Syrian Humanitarian fund grow from 40% to 70%. People that have chosen the harder road, challenging themselves to ache and feel the pain in our world, yet endeavour to still see the good in humanity.
It’s easy to hate and fear, but it’s better to love.
vii. Matthew 21:21; Matthew 8:23-27; Luke 12:1-11; John 3:20; Hebrews 11; 1 John 4:7-21
viii. Matthew 5