Life in the Shadow of Syria

This is not a political statement and I’m not going to suggest any solutions or what any government should or should not do. I’ve been getting lots of questions about what’s going on and this is a personal response from my personal experience.  

So, I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this you’ve seen something on the news recently about Syria. For the past two years, the country has been engulfed in a civil war: the president vs. the opposition. Over 110,000 Syrians have been killed (a conservative estimate that only includes confirmed deaths), and over 2 million have fled to neighboring countries as refugees. A couple of weeks ago, anywhere from just under a thousand to several thousand civilians were killed with the use of chemical weapons. There have been accusations of chemical warfare from both sides for a while, but this was the mostly deadly and visible attack yet. The international community has longed condemned the use of chemical warfare and a UN research team was already in the country to evaluate previous claims. In response to the most recent attack, several Western powers, including the US, have indicated that they are likely to strike against President Assad, believing he is responsible and wanting to ensure that he doesn’t use chemical weapons again. This would be the most aggressive assertion of international intervention to date in the conflict.

For the past two months I’ve been living in Amman, Jordan working with an international NGO assisting Syrian Refugees. I have been learning a lot about the situation of refugees in Jordan and the challenges they face. I was with my Jordanian friend the afternoon I found out about the attack. It had just happened that morning and the world was still waking up to the news. Every news source we looked at had several stories running and no one was quite clear on the details. Accusations were made from both sides, but honestly, at least for me, this flurry of opinions only made the situation more confusing.

Even before the most recent chemical attacks, I was burdened by the fact that in Syria, like in most conflicts, there doesn’t seem to be a “truth.” Everyone claims that everyone else has done a thing. And it seems like no one really knows who did what. People here are still arguing over who started the violence in Syria two years ago. And it feels likely that “the truth” will never be known in the ways we would like. More than that, it doesn’t feel like there is a right or wrong side. No one is innocent. Every “side” in this conflict has committed atrocities in the name of justice.

I’ve been trying to listen, not to speak. And even in my listening I am not finding answers. Different groups – social classes, nationalities, and religions – all have different opinions about the conflict, what has happened and what should happen. Even within those groups people differ. And everyone believes that they are right. So it’s hard to know “the truth” as much as I might want to.

And yet normal life goes on. I woke up this morning and went to work. On my way home later I will stop at the little supermarket by my apartment and buy milk. My host mother and I will sit and watch Turkish dramas dubbed in Arabic. And we’ll probably talk about the fact that she wants to teach me to clean on Friday so my future husband will be happy. I don’t know what’s going to happen in Syria. I’m not sure I know what I want to happen. I want the violence to end. I want my neighbors and friends to be able to return to their homes. I want shalom to come. But how will the violence end? Only with more violence? What about the fact that my friends have no homes to go back to? I don’t know what to do with these questions.

For today, normal life is happening, it just has a shadow hanging over it. And I am praying for peace, for shalom. I am thankful for a God who became human, who knows our pains and our fears and our weaknesses. I’m still praying, “Jesus, please come.”