I cannot just get on with Christmas, echoing in my head are the poignant words “remember us… maybe”, these were spoken via a Social Media video from Aleppo, spoken by a young man who had no hope for what tomorrow might bring, in fact he was resigned to the possibility that there would be no tomorrow. Another video post ended with the words “here comes the barrel bomb”…
The news continues to break, the cease fire that was called on Tuesday to allow civilians to be transported to safety has been halted by heavy shelling that continues today, people waiting for buses that held out a slim life-line of hope to them have had to run for their lives. I sit and watch and weep from my arm chair in the comfort of a warm home, I am well fed, and while I like most people have concerns and griefs to bear, I cannot begin to imagine the horror that is unfolding in the lives of the people who are simply trapped and without hope, reaching out to us for what they fear must be a final time.
It is easy for me to read that “both sides are blaming one another”, and yet trapped , between these two sides are people, ordinary people, families with small children, elderly people, vulnerable people living in fear; they have lived this way now for years. the activist Monther Etaky who has just reported from Eastern Aleppo when asked about the shelling shrugged and said simply “it’s okay we are used to that”. Hundreds of miles away in British Parliament George Osborne has told MPs that they share some responsibility for the terrible events happening in Syria.
The ex-chancellor said the unfolding tragedy in Aleppo had not “come out of a vacuum” but was due to “a vacuum of Western and British leadership.”
An ongoing commentary on the BBC includes this:
“Before the clashes resumed, the UN special envoy to Syria said the situation inside rebel-held Aleppo was “very concerning”.
Staffan de Mistura told reporters on Tuesday night that the area still under opposition control probably only amounted to four to five square kilometres (1.5-1.9 sq miles). Up to 50,000 civilians were still there, along some 1,500 fighters, he added.
There is virtually no food left in the rebel enclave. No fully equipped hospital is functioning and the Syrian Civil Defence rescue service is reported to be barely operating.”
No food, no medical aid, no evacuation, continued bombing, no hope….
This is not a time for political debating, not a time for negotiators to sit around a table to discuss the finer details of a cease fire, this is a time for the bombs to stop, there is hardly anything left to bomb any way. This is a time to get those terrified and traumatised people out of there, but that is easy for me to say, and is probably physically and practically impossible, and all I can do is mourn humanity’s inhumanity and my part in that. How easy it is to be disconnected, or to feel so overwhelmed by unfolding tragedy that we become incapacitated by a sense of our own smallness and uselessness.
But I cannot sit here with my Christmas lights on and do nothing, so I am doing what I can;
As I watch the news from Aleppo, hear those messages from so many people who fear they may be speaking for the last time I am struck by the need to watch and pray.
Next Thursday evening we have a a service of quiet and reflection where we will take “Time out from Tinsel”, we will pause to pray for the world, our communities and one another.
Thursday 22nd December at 7:30pm at Wesley Hall Methodist Church, Crookes.
There will be a collection taken to be given to aid agencies working in and for Aleppo.