Seven million people, one third of the population, have either fled the country or been displaced from their homes.
People are burning their possessions to stay warm and eating whatever they can find. Medical care is next to non-existent while the injuries are many and serious.
It sounds like a natural disaster of monumental proportions, larger than the typhoon in the Philippines or the tsunamis of recent years.
It is a disaster, but not caused by nature, rather by human conflict and scorched earth warfare.
I’m talking about Syria, the situation of which was well described by Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Trudy Rubin in the CDT on Dec. 2. I encourage you to read it and weep.
Rubin wonders “why the biggest humanitarian crisis in a decade is getting so little attention.”
Perhaps it is because we don’t understand what is happening. Perhaps we feel that they made their own bed so let them lay in it.
Sometimes people even become accustomed to the conflict and carnage wreaked upon opposing factions of a religious group that is not their own. Why should they care?
I am a Christian, but I believe that the people of Syria are my brothers and sisters and children and grandparents. It doesn’t matter to me or to God that they speak a different language or worship in a different way. It doesn’t even matter that some are guilty of atrocities while the majority are innocent bystanders in a civil war gone wild.
When people are in dire need, I believe that our God and our common humanity call us to respond with compassion, with a cup of cold water and a can of beans, or at least $20 to help someone else help those who are suffering.
While the diplomats and generals try to figure out a way to bring this conflict to a halt, it is our opportunity and obligation to help relieve the suffering. We can begin by offering prayers for peace and for the victims of the violence and upheaval. And then we can offer physical relief to those in need of food and shelter and medical assistance.
Can you find enough compassion in your heart to reach beyond your usual circle of concern and extend a helping hand to the lost and the least in Syria and the neighboring countries where the victims have fled?
Some of the leading international organizations offering help are: CARE, www.care.org; World Vision, www.worldvision.org; International Rescue Committee, www.rescue.org; Syrian American Medical Society, http://sams-usa.net; Doctors Without Borders, www.doctorswithoutborders.org; UNHCR, www.unhcr.org; and UNICEF, www.unicef.org/emergencies/syria. So why not lend a hand along with your prayers through one of these organizations for the victims of this very human disaster.
Ken Kline Smeltzer is a local handyman, a member of University Baptist and Brethren Church, an ordained minister in the Church of the Brethren, and a member of Interfaith Initiative Centre County.