It has been horrifying to witness what’s happening in Syria as the 5-year conflict unfolds. Listening to the stories on NPR and watching the coverage on the news networks has gotten me thinking about what lessons we can learn from Aleppo, as it seems that the world has learned nothing from previous conflicts and we watch powerless as the lives of innocent people are taken without a real response from the international community.
Like many of my friends, I have been feeling frustrated and helpless as we watch these scenes in which children are fleeing or killed and seems like there is nothing we can do. I have been thinking a lot about this and reflecting not only on how we can help the victims, but also if there are lessons we can learn from Aleppo here in the United States, and for each country individually, because it is obvious that the world as a whole hasn’t been able to stop these kinds of atrocities as countries get involved based on interests and not necessarily because they really care about the people.
Even if think there is no comparing the United States with Syria, I think there are lessons we can learn from Aleppo and other wars in the past; there is much to learn from what happens when hatred dominates a community, groups that are different, cities, and countries. Living in a powerful country like the US gives people a sense of being safe from something like this happening, and that might be true.
However, I think that the damage and violence that can be ignited by hatred is something that is not foreign to us as Americans. If you see the images of the city of Aleppo previous to this war, you can see how they probably felt safe, and didn’t expect war to hit their doorsteps. More than that, I think at some point they were expecting that the international community will come to their aid, and wouldn’t allow them to be killed in front of the cameras and do nothing.
In an interview for NPR, I heard Lina Sergie Attar, a Syrian-American writer from Aleppo who currently lives in Chicago and grew up in Aleppo. She talked about how diverse the city was, and its cultural importance in the region. Aleppo was like any other major city, vibrant, diverse and culturally rich. Now is just a byproduct of war, as many cities in that part of the world. In the end, hatred and violence have an unparalleled power of destruction.
5 Lessons We Can Learn From Aleppo
In the middle of so much injustice and lost of life, the people of Aleppo have been giving an example of unity and humanity. They have shared their food, even when it has been scarce because it is best to all go hungry than to have some starve to death. When it was obvious they were not getting help from the outside, they have help each other to the extent of their possibilities. It is difficult to find the good in such a horrible situation, but I feel it is also an injustice not to recognize the resilience and goodwill of people putting their lives on the line for others.
1. Caring for one another. This is, as I mentioned before, one of the great teachings we can get from this conflict. We must learn to do that all the time; we are not at war, but we are certainly seeing violence and injustices towards others and it is our moral duty to care. This is a trait that seems to be in extinction worldwide, and in a country like the United States where many of us who have the privilege of certain comfort, we might easily forget. Staying in touch with the reality of those who are less fortunate, and helping those we can help is a must. This is not only for the benefit of those we are helping, but for our own benefit as it will allow us to be connected to our humanity, our ability to feel empathy, to be generous, and it creates a ripple effect of kindness that can ultimately bring peace.
2. Value human life. We are exposed to so many images of people killed by violence, and I’m not talking about the war, as we must not forget all the black lives that have been taken right here at home, that we are getting numbed. It was become such a common occurrence that we block it, try to turn it off, by not watching (I’m guilty of this myself) or simply don’t want to share anymore because we are drained. We have to find ways to celebrate human life, to reinforce its value and show that all this violence isn’t okay.
3. Do not fear refugees. When you see thousands of people being bombed out of their homes, fleeing because their lives are on the line, you need to be clear that this are not immigrants. These are people that didn’t choose to be displace, to live their homes, their memories, and their dead loved ones behind. We could be them at some point, even if it seems hard to believe. Even if we are never them, if we put ourselves in their shoes, we can probably sense the despair, hopelessness and fear they are experiencing. Moreover, I can only wish for enough compassion for my own children if they were in a situation like all those newly orphan kids that don’t know where they are going and don’t have their parents to comfort them.
4. We have to choose better leaders. I know this one sounds like an accusation, or a joke, at this point in our history. But I’m not talking about our recent election right now; I’m talking in general. The people that are leading locally and globally have taken our world to a place that the majority of us don’t understand, or are afraid of, or simply in which our freedom is being challenged or taken by force. That doesn’t mean that I have the answer to this, about how we can achieve this one, but at least we need to think about it; we ought to be more mindful of the leaders we are giving our power to, this has proven to be a matter of life and death in many cases.
5. Believe in the impact of our actions. No matter how small, everything we do, has an impact. When it comes to violence and hate, we have to be mindful that not doing anything, not getting involved, often has the worse impact of all. In the same way, the things we do to put some good in the world, to help a person, to alleviate the suffering of at least one other human being, also has an impact. For us on the other side of the world in the case of Aleppo, we can seek opportunities to help those who have been affected. We might not have the power to end the war or give them what they lost back, but we can all, collectively show them that there is also good in the world, and that we SEE them, and we CARE about all of this horror.
These are some of the organizations providing support on the ground. Donate to as many as you can, tell your friends and family, and send a message of hope to those who can’t see an end to their suffering:
DONATE TO UNICEF
The Syrian war has affected 80% of the country’s children ( 8.4 million lives) shattered by violence, fear, displacement and death. In response, UNICEF has helped mobilize the largest relief operation in history — providing safe water, nutrition, polio vaccinations, temporary schools and more. But these children’s needs are outgrowing our resources.
SPONSOR A SYRIAN ORPHAN
The Syrian Orphans Organization was formed with the intention to make lasting positive changes in the lives of disadvantaged orphans affected by the ongoing crisis in Syria. The children in Syria are being forced to live in dismal conditions with almost no food, medical aid and shelter. Most of these children have also been orphaned and have no one left to look after them.
DONATE TO RESCUE
Founded at Albert Einstein’s request, the IRC offers lifesaving aid and solutions to today’s most challenging human crises. The International Rescue Committee helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and regain control of their future.
DONATE TO THE WHITE HELMETS
The volunteers save people on all sides of the conflict – pledging commitment to the principles of “Humanity, Solidarity, Impartiality” as outlined by the International Civil Defence Organisation. This pledge guides every response, every action, every life saved – so that in a time of destruction, all Syrians have the hope of a lifeline. The White Helmets mostly deal with the aftermath of government air attacks. Yet they have risked sniper fire to rescue bodies of government soldiers to give them a proper burial.
DONATE TO DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS
Doctors Without Borders is a neutral and impartial humanitarian organization that aims first and foremost to provide high-quality medical care to the people who need it the most. It does not promote the agenda of any country, political party, or religious faith, and, as such, endeavors to communicate its history, background, and capabilities to all parties in a given situation so that it may gain the necessary access to populations in need.
DONATE TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS
This organization provides humanitarian aid during the Syrian conflict. They deliver food and medical supplies to people in need on the ground.
DONATE TO SAVE THE CHILDREN
Their main goal in Syria is to help families who are desperate to leave are being shown no dignity or humanity. The want to help safely evacuate the remaining civilians.
HELP PLANET SYRIA
This non-violent activist organization is dedicated to spreading the word about the crisis in Aleppo through peace talks. If you don’t have money to donate, but want to do something, you can support this organization by signing their statement and sharing it online to help them raise awareness.
Let me know what you think about your own learnings and share any other organizations you know of that are providing support. I’ll make sure to add them to my list!