Like many, I have been following the events in Syria, which now seems to have taken over from Iraq of having the dubious mantle of being the most troubled country in the Middle East. It wasn’t that long ago when few would have been aware of the organization referred to as Isis (Daish) and few would have been aware of the human rights abuses that were being inflicted on the Syrian people by its President Assad. Isis and Assad are diametrically opposed ideologically but both want power to control the country (in Isis case it goes much beyond Syria) and both have inflicted untold damage on those who happened to be in the way. On top of this are the opposition forces to both Isis and Assad, whose effectiveness is limited, partly because these are not united. Then there are the various powers who are united in trying to defeat Isis but not when it comes to bringing down the Assad regime. We see a resurgence maybe of the Cold War with the USA and Russia being opposed on this matter. We also see the damage, often collateral, being cause by airstrikes, and of course we have a mounting refugee crisis.
None of this makes easy viewing or reading and although I recognize my limitations in bringing to an end the troubles we are seeing, I also believe it is right and proper to try to understand, and this despite my bemusement and frustration over the little I can do. During the week just passed, each day the Radio 4 Today program has been broadcasting a series titled “Life inside ‘Islamic State’”. It is the story told by one man after his city, Raqqa, had been overcome by Isis. The sheer terror of what happened next and the atrocities and horrors that came about as a result has been considerable, and rather than begin to describe these I refer readers to the animated broadcasts. It all raises so may questions like “why”, “what if” and “what next”. Following the fifth and final episode today, Radio 4 interviewed an expert as to what is going on. The prospects are dire and despite a partial cease fire, and while it may well be that Isis will be defeated, the suffering is set to continue. I write also given the backdrop of refugees pouring into Europe, with certain countries like Greece bearing the brunt and hardly being able to cope. As for Europe, it seems there is a lack of concerted action and but no lack of each nation (with some exceptions e.g. Germany) trying to get away with doing the minimum. Then there is the dismantling of the “Jungle” in Calais and the implications of where the refugees are to go, and that of unaccompanied minors. And the question continues to be begged of UK’s approach to the Middle East refugee crisis as a whole, where it should direct help and finding a political solution.
And having got all this off my chest, I admit I am confused, frustrated and angry. But there are bright lights, including fantastic people trying to do their bit despite being told they are do gooders that mean well, but whose efforts are misplaced. Sometimes we have to hold our hands up and recognize that what we can do is severely limited but then there are things we can do, such as showing kindness to a destitute sanctuary seeker, even if by proxy. And every day as new stories and angles rise to the surface, I resist the temptation of turning off and while I can’t take it all in, I can take in some of it and give it all to Almighty God who does all things well.