If the idea of arguments or awkward moments fills you with a slow rising anxiety, then you’ve likely already avoided this word. In fact, when I was asked to write something about Syria a line from one of Ed Sheeran’s recent songs came to mind, “Son don’t you get involved in politics, religions or other people’s quarrels.”
Obviously, I have no problem with religion, politics, or even quarrels. Jesus not only founded a religion, but he spoke truth to power and he demonstrated time and again that he was unafraid of conflict or disagreement when love demanded it.
Why then do we avoid talking about Syria? Is it ignorance and/or a fear of getting it wrong that keeps us from speaking or acting? There might be something there.
How does one make sense of a complex situation without being overly simplistic or reductionist in nature? One blog cannot hope to make sense of 6 year long civil war with as many as 7 acting parties, the use of chemical weapons, the specter of war crimes, a humanitarian crisis, a refugee crisis, geo-politics and political divisions throughout the world as a result, jihadists, ISIS and the creation of a “caliphate,” and its development into what some analysts have called a proxy war for Iran and Russia.
The recent news of an American transition from airstrikes on ISIS to missile strikes on Assad’s regime is a significant development, regardless of how you interpret it politically.
Confused? You’re not alone. Want to do something but feel helpless because it feels too big to handle? Join the club.
Like a deer caught in the headlights, we can let this confusion paralyze us into either inaction or dismissal. Frozen in inaction we say to ourselves, “there’s nothing we can do. It’s too big for one person.” Sadly, this is exactly what the father of lies wants. Looking at all of the data, he’d love for us to believe that if we can’t understand it all or speak well enough on each point, then there’s nothing that we can do. That, of course, is a lie. We don’t have to understand pain to respond to it.
The Church and Christ don’t expect us to understand suffering, pain, or even evil but to oppose it with the scandalously extravagant love of Christ. This is a love that offers itself and meets suffering with compassion long before there’s a mutual understanding. This is a love that seeks and desires to walk with the suffering one because Christ, the suffering one, desired to walk to Calvary for all of us.
These aren’t naïve flowery sentiments about love and pain from a priest in an ivory tower. These are the sentiments of Rand Mittri, a 26 year old from Aleppo, Syria. Rand stood before Pope Francis and nearly 2.5 million young adults at World Youth Day and shared her heart. She spoke of her heartbreak, fear, and the terror of being surrounded by death and killing. She asked the Pope “Is it possible that this is the end, and that we were born to die in pain? Or are we born to live, and to live life to the fullest?” I’ll never forget the sound of her shaking voice and the tears. But what she shared next would truly touch the heart of things:
Through my meager life experience, I have learned that my faith in Christ supersedes the circumstances of life. This truth is not conditioned on living a life of peace that is free of hardship. More and more, I believe that God exists despite all of our pain. I believe that sometimes through our pain, He teaches us the true meaning of love. My faith in Christ is the reason for my joy and hope. No one will ever be able to steal this true joy from me.
That’s what it means to move from paralysis into action – trust in a love greater than ourselves – and then finding that the action doesn’t depend on us but Christ within us.
If Rand Mittri can find faith enough to serve her fellow brothers and sisters with love in Aleppo, could we find enough to at least speak with and have compassion for other people’s quarrels? At the very least we could stop pretending it doesn’t exist.
Today, let’s pray a for peace in Syria. And ask God to show us the way.
Resources to get involved and stay informed: