Syria. Remember her? Just a few weeks ago, I was one of those sobbing over the images appearing on our television screens depicting the displaced, the dead, and the desolate. More than two million people forced to flee the place they called home as a bloody civil war raged through the country. More than 100,000 killed since the conflict began.
At threads we even made a departure from the (wrongly-held) assumption that all we care about is sex and relationships as we held a gathering in the upper room of a pub in north London to discuss ‘a better way for Syria’.
We brought together thinkers, humanitarians, pacifists, prayers and justice-seekers. We brought together people who just felt they had to do something – even if it was just gathering with a group of people to talk about it all.
As we were faced with the huge scale of the world’s darkness and injustice, we felt unable to just sit on our hands, so we united to try and see what we could do from where we were, because we felt some kind of human affinity with those caught up in the crisis.
For a moment, we fixed our eyes on Syria.
And then life went on.
My brain could only concentrate on one tragedy at a time – and there were plenty I could have focused on in the past few weeks: Cyclone Phailin and the Westgate attack in Nairobi to name just two.
But then I focused on myself again anyway: the frustrating commutes into work, petty arguments with loved ones, the church rota, the workload, The Great British Bake Off, sex and relationships.
The television screens I had been glued to which fed my hunger to feel for my fellow human beings in Syria began to show fewer and fewer images of their suffering. The news agenda moved on. Life started happening again. And I forgot.
Unlike me, many Syrians who are caught up in the conflict – mums, children, grandfathers, aunties – can’t just move on. They’re living this nightmare – whether the world notices or not.
Today, in the city that I live in, 11 foreign ministers from the Friends of Syria group will join foreign secretary William Hague in talks to persuade moderate Syrian opposition forces to enter into peace negotiations in Geneva. They are hoping for peace in a conflict which has felt like it might never end.
Might this be the solution? I’m daring to hope that it might be, because Syria’s got my attention again. And so too have all the brilliant organisations, including our friends at Tearfund, Open Doors and Christian Aid, whose attention has never shifted off the plight of those working in the region.
At our threads meeting on Syria, we prayed the following prayer from the Church of England. I hope that you’ll join me in praying these words again as we dare to hope for peace in the darkest of circumstances.
A Prayer for Peace in Syria
Spirit of wisdom and grace,
the power of truth and judgement;
we pray for all who are working for peace
in the tangled conflict of Syria today.
For international leaders holding a thread of control,
for the politicians holding a thread of power,
for the religious leaders holding a thread of authority,
for the fighters holding a thread of influence,
and the citizens clinging to a thread of hope.
Bring unity through the untangled order of justice.
Bring reconciliation through truthful dialogue.
Bring new life through patient diplomacy,
determined mediation and courageous peace-making.
We pray in the name of Christ,
our source of inspiration and confidence. Amen.