Crying for Omran

As a teen-ager, I glibly committed to letting my heart be broken by the things that break God’s. However, the older I get, the less my heart is able to deal with all this world holds. There are times when challenges within a ten-mile radius of my home are enough to overwhelm me, let alone the relentless litany of atrocities from around the globe. Awfulness is everywhere and to be frank, I wonder how God puts up with the messes we humans make.


Heaven knows I’m struggling to make sense of world events. Case in point, the photo from last week’s news feed of 5-year old Omran Daqneesh, dirty, bloodied, and dazed after being pulled from the rubble of his Aleppo, Syria home. His 10-year old brother Ali died from injuries sustained from the blast that leveled the apartment building in which the family lived. Two little boys, growing up in a war zone. Now one is gone.

For the tens of thousands of families trapped by fighting, basic infrastructure nonexistent, and access to humanitarian aid denied, last Thursday was just another day in Aleppo.

For the rest of us, the image of tiny Omran alone in the back of an ambulance should have been the straw that broke the camel’s back of inattention to the suffering of ordinary Syrians. And for a day or two, it almost was. Then the next cycle of “breaking news” and the world’s attention moved on to stories easier to understand.

The civil war in Syria is complicated, lacking a clean delineation between good guys and bad. To tell the truth, I long ago forgot (if I ever knew) which side it was that the U.S. is backing and which army(ies) we’re pounding with drone attacks. By this point in the protracted conflict, all sides – government forces, opposition fighters, and ISIS – are a danger to civilians.

We hear that more than 4.5 million people have fled Syria since the start of the conflict, most of them women and children. Neighboring Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have struggled to cope with one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history. About 10 percent of Syrian refugees have sought safety in Europe, resulting in political divisions as countries argue over sharing the burden. A small number of Syrian refugees have made their way to Canada. Far fewer to the United States.

The numbers, the devastation, the violence – it’s too much. Then I think of little Omran and my heart screams, “This isn’t right. I/we must do something.”

My pacifist faith tells me military intervention isn’t the answer, but faced with unrelenting evil, what else is there?


If your response to the plight of Syrian and other refugees is similar to mine – if your heart is breaking for that which has to be a heart-break for God – then:

Pray for Syrians who’ve remained in their homeland and for those who’ve fled in search of safety for their families. Beseech God to “break the arm of the wicked and evildoers” (Psalm 10:15) and to “do justice to the orphan and the oppressed so that those from the earth may strike terror no more” (Psalm 10: 18).

Watch this short video from Mennonite Central Committee for concrete suggestions by which you can help. Better yet, pass the link to the video along to 5 or 10 friends, urging them to join you in support of MCC’s work with Syrian and other refugees.

Peace loving Christians in the U.S. can also urge members of Congress to do all they can to end the war in Syria and to respond generously with humanitarian aid.

You can counter hateful and fear-laden political rhetoric about refugees (Syrians in particular) with the words of Jesus. Love your neighbor as yourself. Welcome the stranger. Bind up wounds. Give comfort to orphans and widows. Forgive your enemies. Fear not.

Never stop letting your heart be broken for that which breaks the heart of God, even when the weight of the world’s woes seem unbearable and solutions beyond our reach — even when you weep over a little boy alone in the back of an ambulance. God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to God’s power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

You or I can’t broker a peace agreement, bring about a cease-fire, or solve the world’s refugee crisis, but if each of us does what we can — if we pray for, give to, and advocate on behalf of those who are suffering — that will be something. I believe with all my (broken) heart that in God’s hands, our somethings become much.




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