Looking at Aleppo

After watching perhaps the third news report about the former producer of the reality TV show The Apprentice and his role in the upcoming inauguration of the President-elect, I was gripped this morning by the urgency of the current situation in the city of Aleppo, Syria — or, rather, what remains of that once-great city — and how news coverage seems to be very weakly communicating the importance of what is transpiring before our collective eyes. When the leading stories seem to give as much coverage to the recent political arguments and fashion trends as they do to the humanitarian disaster that is the war Syria, it should give us reason to pause and ask where we have gone wrong as a society.

A Syrian man carries two girls covered with dust following a reported air strike by government forces on July 9, 2014 in the northern city of Aleppo. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, by May some 2,000 civilians including 500 children had been killed in the daily air strikes, which rights groups have condemned as a “war crime” for failing to discriminate between military and civilian targets. AFP PHOTO /AMC/ZEIN AL-RIFAI (Photo credit should read ZEIN AL-RIFAI/AFP/Getty Images)

How we easily become distracted

I remember well the days when news coverage was limited to the broadcasts of the big three news networks — and for those who paid for cable, CNN. Our family would turn the TV volume up loud enough to be heard from the next room so that my parents could listen as we ate dinner together. That all changed long ago, with the advent of social media, fake news sites, and multiple 24-hour news networks. In the midst of this monsoon of voices, more is most often less — it is easier than ever to hear only what one wants to hear.

Let’s not be afraid to examine ourselves

“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” – 2 Timothy 4:3

I believe, most of the time, we are meant to take Biblical teachings primarily as invitations to examine ourselves. If we take seriously the teaching that the human heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), then we usually must assume our own guilt, and do all we can to repent of it.

A general view shows a damaged street with sandbags used as barriers in Aleppo’s Saif al-Dawla district March 6, 2015. REUTERS/Hosam Katan

Unfortunately, most of the time we look at these sort of teachings as if we are our own defence attorney. We argue for our side, stating our intentions, and claiming we aren’t actually all that bad. If we’ve already accepted the gospel, then we’re ok — we aren’t deceived, we aren’t lost anymore. 

The problem with that is that Jesus is the defence lawyer — not us. And so if there is to be any acquittal, it is to be based on his arguments, and not ours. We may be pardoned, and we may have his righteousness imputed to us, but as long as we are on earth we still need to repent of the unbelief that hangs on, ever so relentlessly, to our heart.

And so, as a Christian — as a follower of Christ — here I am, asking myself the question, “am I simply surrounding myself with the voices that I want to hear?” 

Am I really concerned about the things in this world that Jesus would be concerned about?

This is the question that I believe I’ve got to ask, if I am to be faithful to my calling, as a follower of Christ. If Jesus visibly came today as he did 2,000 years ago, what world events, if any, would he be talking about? I don’t believe he’d be talking about the balance of power in Congress or the TV production of the inauguration.

Now don’t get me wrong — people who are concerned about those things are not necessarily wrong, or spreading deceit. But at a time when so much injustice is being carried out around the world, we cannot afford to be uninformed.

Here are some things that are supposedly happening right now in Syria:

What can we do?

The real answer is “I don’t know”. In the face of such suffering, it seems that there is little we can do. But again, turning back to Scripture, there some clear options.

  • Pray. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16) Prayer is our connection to the Almighty. Be assured that there are innocent victims — mothers, children, babies — caught in the midst of the explosions and debris. Pray for peace and deliverance to come quickly.
  • Give. There are organizations struggling to bring relief to the areas affected by the war. Do your homework, try to make sure they are competent, but give to them. God does a great work in our hearts when we decide to behave generously — don’t forgo the opportunity.
  • Talk. Finally, let us use our words to encourage others to pray. Let this be our opportunity to communicate your faith in God — that he and he alone is in control over these forces that wage war on the Earth.

O Lord, bring peace.

10Then the LORD said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. 11″Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand…? Jonah 4:10-11

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