It is, perhaps, the biggest humanitarian crisis on the globe today: Aleppo. Literally all civilians are being evacuated as I write this post. Many residents are so angry at being forced to leave their homes that they are burning their belongings and even their homes. Others are simply relieved to be getting out with their lives.
On October 3rd I wrote a post titled Thoughts on Aleppo which I hope you will take a minute to go back and read. The post was a humanitarian, rather than a political one, as is today’s. The politics in Aleppo are complex and frankly, it is a situation where there are no ‘good guys’. The victims are the people. The ordinary, everyday citizens trying to earn a living, protect and care for their children, and find a little joy in their lives. People like you … me …
Once the most populated city in all of Syria, the pictures tell the story of what Aleppo is today, after five years of war between the Assad regime and various rebel factions. Hospitals have been bombed repeatedly, U.N. aid convoys destroyed, and people are living without electricity, food or clean water. Russia, the U.S., Turkey, Iran, and Syria have all been responsible for civilian deaths caused by bombing raids, chlorine gas attacks and ground fire. Death toll estimates since 2011 vary, but most sources put the number between 400,000 – 470,000. In 2011, at the beginning of the war, the population of Aleppo was 3.164 million.
An earlier cease-fire agreement in order to evacuate civilians on Wednesday fell apart when Iranian airstrikes resumed throughout the day. In the wee hours of the morning, a new cease-fire was agreed to, hence today’s evacuation efforts. The evacuation is being overseen by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Ambulances and buses will be working non-stop to evacuate the tens of thousands who are trapped in the city. Will it be enough? Will the cease-fire remain in place until all are evacuated? Only time will tell.
I don’t know about you, dear readers, but when I read the stories like this one , when I see the pictures of the mass devastation, when I think of people living without food or water, I feel guilty. I feel guilty for complaining about the small things, like having to go out in the cold to go to the grocery store to buy food, or not being able to see well enough to read the label on a box of crackers. I feel guilty for being in a nice warm home, with plenty of food to eat, warm clothing to wear, and comparatively no worries.
In ten days, many around the world will celebrate Christmas, a traditionally Christian holiday, though these days it is celebrated by non-Christians as well. It has become a holiday of excesses. We buy an excess of gifts for loved ones (and sometimes those whom we don’t love), an excess of food, and excess of just about everything. And we take it all for granted. We celebrate for an entire month before December 25th, and we complain because we cannot find just the right gift for Uncle Harry, or because we must bake still more cookies for yet another office party. We whine because “there is just so much to get done”. Note that I use the word “we”. Yes, I am as guilty of all the above as any. And today, as I try to stay abreast of information coming out of Aleppo, as I hope that the cease-fire will hold, as I shed a tear for the people in Aleppo, that guilt settles heavily on my shoulders.
How can anyone read about this humanitarian crises, look at the pictures, and still say that we should reject all refugees from the Middle East? There is not a single U.S. citizen who has ever lived in circumstances even close to those which the people of Aleppo have lived in since March 2011. We in the U.S. have so much, yet we are unwilling, or afraid, to share it with these refugees? During the past year, I have heard so many people claim that “we are a Christian nation”, and in the next breath say they want all refugees banned. Is that not, perhaps, the ultimate oxymoron?
The purpose of this post? I don’t really know. I just know that I needed to somehow devote some time to realizing that we here in the U.S., and also in many other places around the globe, have so much for which to be thankful. I felt a need to remember to be thankful that my family and loved ones are safe and sound. My thoughts and hopes are with the people of Aleppo as they make the journey into yet another unknown life, hope that they will keep safe and find a path to a new life, a safer life, and a better life than they have known for the past five years.