By: Jeff Clark, with Jasmin Morrell
Reports from Aleppo are grim: bodies line the streets, women and children shot in their homes, aid workers unable to reach those who need them most.
What can we do? What must we do? What work can we do right now in the face of a situation so overwhelming and seemingly so far-off?
In faith narratives, for some it’s common to describe our decisions to turn toward Jesus as “asking him into our hearts.” What does it look like to bring the citizens of Aleppo into our hearts?
Pray – by all means. Hope – hope that those left in the besieged city can be safely transported out of the war zone. Remind – in our holiday conversations be intentional to remind those around us and those who lead us, of this tragic rupture in our community.
This Upworthy article, 7 Real Things You Can Do Right Now About the Catastrophe in Aleppo, is a helpful start. It lists things like ways to support the White Helmets, Doctors Without Borders, and the International Rescue Committee. Or this article from Huffington Post has compiled a list of charities working to provide food and medical care. Educate yourself and use social media to spread the word, elevating the level of attention this receives.
Move our hearts. Move our lips. Move our feet. Move, not sit – that’s what we do, because like the terrified citizens of Aleppo, we’re all immigrants. Always on the move, longing for home.
Syria has been locked in civil war for more than five years, with many innocent lives lost, and many more forced to flee or hide, living day-to-day with the understanding that death is on their doorstep. The conflict escalated to an alarming degree after a ceasefire, meant to facilitate civilian evacuation of the area, was broken. UN human rights office spokesman Rupert Colville recently commented, “We’re filled with the deepest foreboding for those who remain in this last hellish corner of eastern Aleppo.”
It’s easy to erase feelings of turmoil and fear from the mangers arranged on our mantles and in our yards this time of year. The scene is familiar and the pleasant associations undeniable. Yes, Mary and Joseph had a difficult time finding a place to birth their son, but they eventually found shelter, Magi brought gifts, and we’re happy to celebrate the child whose arrival shapes our faith. But Jesus’ childhood was far from a cozy Christmas card scene.
As the story goes, when Herod ordered all male children under the age of two in Bethlehem to be massacred, Mary and Joseph fled their home, taking refuge in Egypt. Political unrest, innocents slaughtered, and fleeing refugees…the age-old Christmas story is remarkably resonant with the bloody reality of what is happening today, right now.
St. John of the Cross, a sixteenth century Carmelite friar, writes:
the Virgin will come walking down the road
pregnant with the holy,
“I need shelter for the night, please take me inside your heart,
my time is so close.”
Then under the roof of your soul, you will witness the sublime
intimacy, the divine, the Christ
As she grasps your hand for help, for each of us
is the midwife of God, each of us.*
Each of us can help bring God into the world. And there is no better time than now.
The Many, band and long-time community members of the Goose, have offered their single “Room For Us All” in response to the crisis. Available for free download on Noisetrade, all tips will collected will go to The International Rescue Committee.
*Ladinsky, Daniel. Love Poems From God: Twelve Sacred Voices From the East and West. “If You Want,” 306. Penguin Compass: New York, 2002.