My guess is that you’re bored of hearing of Syria. Pictures and stories about the chemical weapons, the Islamists that are taking over the democratic revolution, the bulging refugee camps and the frustrating diplomatic wranglings feature in the media every day, but we’re bored and have kinda stopped caring. Same old, same old ... lots of cruelty and misery, we know. Moving on.
And that is the real tragedy. I was just a little bit too young to really grasp the context, history and development of the Rwandan genocide, which has given me the presumed moral superiority of being able to shake my head at the humanity of my youth and just wonder “how on earth did the previous generation let Rwanda happen” with the obvious implication that we’re better people now and if MY generation had been old enough to understand, the genocide would never have happened.
I don’t have that luxury now. I’m old enough to get what’s happening, and I’m watching it happen. When my future kids ask me 25 years from now in their moral righteousness how the hell could my generation let Syria happen I will have very little to say.
If you’ve not gotten too bored, but have at least read this far, let me assure you that I’m not talking about bombing. I may have opinions on what should or should not be done on the diplomatic or military level, but neither my writing about that nor you reading my ranting is going to change anything. What I want to focus on is what you or I can actually do, and that has to do with the human tragedy that is unfolding on a mind-boggling scale.
There’s more to this war than guns and tanks and sarin and fighters of all creeds and unimaginable acts of cruelty. There’s the lack of hospitals to treat the wounded or ill and there are the squalid and overflowing refugee camps with 2 million – let me repeat that number – TWO MILLION people who are getting bored and frustrated when not being bought or abused. When we want to act to help those that are suffering, we can and do. Donations for the survivors and rebuilding after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami reached US$ 10 billion. I wonder how much that money would do in the camps in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. The refugees could not only have food and shelter, but schools and hospitals and small businesses to start getting people back on their feet and earning their keep. This would not just alleviate immediate suffering, but increase the chances that the people will be mentally and physically fit to return to rebuild their country once the atrocious war is finally over.
There are plenty of organisations that have not been waiting for the US and Russia to be done with their diplomatic posturing and chest pumping to DO SOMETHING about the humanitarian crisis. Medecins sans Frontières for example runs clandestine hospitals inside the country. Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations is a collective of Syrian (and Syrian origin) medical organisations and professionals providing and co-ordinating medical aid. Lots of the big, traditional guys such as UNICEF and Red Cross/Crescent work inside the country as well as in the camps. The UNHCR obviously tries to run most of the show in the camps, and is chronically underfunded. Smaller organisations, such as Kirkon Ulkomaanapu in Finland or Caritas in Switzerland, also do their bit. If you don’t want to part with your cash, Amnesty International in the UK, for example, is running a campaign to pressure the government to do more to help the refugee crisis.
Please let’s not get jaded and callous about this, but do whatever small thing we, as individuals, can.