My boys are asleep in the room next-door. They are young enough to believe in magic and tickles. They are young enough to ask me to pray when they get sick. And they’ll always be young to me.
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But the world has a way of forgetting its sons and daughters.
It has a way of making them grow old too soon, or ending their lives before they start.
Young men like Sammy Yatim from Syria.
Sammy lived in Toronto, but his family had emigrated from Syria, and the boy’s life ended July 26 when a policeman tasered him and then shot him nine times after he wielded a knife on an empty subway car. Sammy was 18 years old.
“Violence does not consist so much in injuring and annihilating persons as in interrupting their continuity, making them play roles in which they no longer recognize themselves, making them betray not only commitments but their own substance, making them carry out actions that will destroy every possibility for action.” — Emmanuel Levinas, Totality and Infinity
Sammy and his family were among the hundreds of thousands who’ve fled Syria over the past five years. Syria–with all of its forgotten people: all of its marginalized people who’ve been pushed over the borders by hatred. This war that began back in spring 2011 has killed over 100,000 the UN tells us and 7,000 of those, children.
We’re losing our children in a fight that’s already been lost.
Death comes fast enough as it is. Why hurry it?
Who are we to wield a gun and play Maker?
Sammy was in the wrong for threatening the police, but death is not the answer. He had a story and beliefs and a favorite book. He had dreams and hopes and a family that loved him, until the gun reached in and took that from him.
The Globe and Mail says this:
Born Nov. 5, 1994, Sammy has been described as a mama’s boy who grew up in a wealthier Aleppo enclave and went to Al Amal, a private Christian school. He went to church on Sundays and his mother’s home was decorated with pictures of Jesus. He played the guitar, listened to Arabic music and swam in the pool at Mr. Baurak’s grandmother’s house…
He was a young boy, fascinated with things of old. As a child growing up in Syria, Sammy Yatim spent afternoons with his best friend trolling antique shops, weaving through the markets in search of items that captured their imagination.
With a stomach full from a sandwich or eggs, prepared by his doting mother or by Sammy himself, he and his friend Zuhair Baurak mined the dusty antique shops in search of lighters, perfumes and, especially, knives. For the boys, at the time around 10 years old and close like brothers, it didn’t matter how sharp the knife was, just whether the handle was unique and decorative – sometimes the blade was so dull it couldn’t cut anything; sometimes it was so rusty it fell off the handle completely.
It would be this fascination with knives that would get him in trouble on the subway car.
The policeman who shot Sammy forgot that he was a person. He objectified him. He made him into an object of his judgement and anger. An object that was detached, a soul-less problem which could be eliminated by pulling a trigger.
In order to kill, you have to objectify, because as soon as you begin to humanize someone, it’s impossible to take their life. You start to feel similar to them. To relate to them and to empathize.
Objectification is the killer’s true ammunition. And it kills long before any bullet does.
We play God with our guns. We determine someone’s destiny when in fact we don’t even know our own.
Unless we know the number of hairs on someone’s head; unless we have hung the world in orbit and know the names of all of the stars; unless we have sent our son to die on behalf of a broken people; unless we bend low while others cast stones and write Forgiven in the sand, we are not God. And if we are not God, we are unable to determine the number of days a person shall live.
So let’s make some changes.
Let’s start choosing peace at home. Let’s begin speaking peacefully. Let’s love radically. Let’s stop fighting with our spouses and our children and let’s stop wishing death on anyone no matter how mean or awful they are. We choose life or death in the way we conduct ourselves on a daily basis and the more we choose to protect the sanctity of life, the more we choose to DIE to ourselves so others might live. And there will be a ripple effect. Our children will learn peace and in turn, their children too.
And maybe in time the world will lay down their swords and pick up a child.
Because isn’t it peace Jesus has called us to? Isn’t it Jesus who said to turn the other cheek, and to give the clothes off our backs and to forgive seventy times seven? Isn’t it Jesus who said to put our swords back in their place because those who live by the sword die by it? And aren’t we supposed to love our enemies?
But these words mean nothing unless we start putting them into action.
Let’s drop the weapons, because death comes fast enough.
And let’s make life as full as possible, for as long as possible, till heaven calls us home.
(FRIENDS? SYRIA NEEDS OUR HELP…)
“We have not seen a refugee outflow escalate at such a frightening rate since the Rwandan genocide almost 20 years ago.” –United Nations Refugee Chief, Antonio Guterres
The United Nations reports that there are nearly 2 million Syrian refugees who have been forced to flee their homes. Three quarters of these are women and children,, traumatized by the loss of their loved ones and the crippling fear that has overtaken the landscape. Over 4 million Syrians have been internally displaced since the uprisings began, and all are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.
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