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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Lament for Syria

While we pay attention to debates (and this election does matter, the first one for me in which my primary lens for voting is as the mother of an active duty US Army officer . . . so who is most likely to send him into a situation where the cost is worth the moral gain?) and to racism (and this also matters, terribly, it is a root cause of so much sorrow all over our world, and awareness does help as I realised yesterday when an adult in conversation made a disparaging remark about Kenyans, while I was hosting a few young teens one of whom was black and Kenyan and I apologized and explained why it wasn't OK for us to categorize people like that, and thought about how many times I'd done the same) and to a thousand other things that compete for attention, the cease-fire in Syria failed and the city of Aleppo has been pummeled.

In the face of sobering statistics on deaths, in the face of this article today which describes the facts of this week, how can we respond?  100,000 of the 250,000 residents are children.  They can't go to school, they can't escape, they can't hide from the volume and intensity of the bombs.  Evil presses in on multiple sides, with no clear solutions.

This is the time for lament.  Lament sees the face of those suffering, and does not turn away.  Lament cries out to God for mercy, for justice, without knowing exactly what that would look like (today's readings included Job 9 and Psalm 88--not your pat answers).  Lament acknowledges that this world is not fair, not safe, not as it should be. And lament addresses God, which is a matter of faith, of saying that in spite of Syria, we are not left alone.

This is also the time to look at the faces, listen to the stories.  This series by a young woman who grew up in Serge and now uses her photojournalistic gifts for justice is a good place to start.  Individuals humanize the overwhelming nature of numbers and dust and rubble.

And this is the time to hope.  Another friend posted This video a couple of days ago, and I can't stop thinking about it.  Near the end it shows an infant being pulled from the post-bomb destruction, and the process is so much like a birth.  The baby's head coming through that opening, the rescuers waiting, expectant, taking risks, striving.  The hopefulness of a life pulled from the surrounding of death.  Because that is the final answer, in Syria and everywhere else.  In Genesis 3, from the moment that evil entered our world, the promise paralleled the curse.  Salvation would come for all creation, through the birth of a child.  The little Syrian baby, born at a time of danger, rescued, reminds us of Jesus.  Reminds us that the ultimate solution is not to be found in armies, treaties, helicopters, or hospitals, as important as all of those may be.  The ultimate conquering of evil came quietly, painfully, improbably, in the birth of a Middle Eastern baby, in the years of walking dusty Middle Eastern roads, in the tragically unjust death only miles from today's sorrows, in the resurrection that women just like those in today's stories witnessed.

Evil on the scale of Syria, or on the scale of my selfish heart, won't be blasted out of the universe by fire and brimstone.  That's too indiscriminate, too much collateral damage, too close to the bombs we see now.  Evil has been conquered by a birth and a death, and each human and nation has the option to reach out to that baby, and find that we are not the rescuers, but the rescued.  Let us live in this world naming the losses, seeing the real people affected, and looking to Jesus for hope.

I'll leave you with the only image in this post (you can click the links to see actual Syrians and the reality of this week).  This stained glass window was in a chapel where we took a prayer retreat day on Monday.  This is Jesus' answer to the "who is my neighbor" and "why care about Syria" question.  We may not be able to eradicate all the roadside robbers, but we can notice the bleeding person from a different ethnicity who is even potentially a political enemy, we can lament, and we can love.

1 comment:

Scott Will said...

Hey, Jennifer. Thanks for posting. I think I have been lamenting for well over a year now. I often feel like crying or weeping, tossing between feeling hopeless and other times crying out to God as author and perfector of our faith as I think of South Sudan and my family and friends there. I thank God for communication, even all the way to the bush of South Sudan that has allowed me to have regular conversations with people there. I can not get them out of my heart, and I do not want to. It may be too unstable for me to be in South Sudan right now, but the door has been opened for me to work in northern Uganda at refugee camps for a few months with South Sudanese. It's all come about fast, and I am leaving very soon. And so I will continue to lament, and act, and seek out God even when his presence has felt distant and aloof. I know he cares. I know he sees people in Syria and South Sudan. I know you do, too, and I hope I do as well. May we always be attuned to the needs of the suffering, whomever they may be and wherever they may be from.