No matter how you try the bad news gets to you. You can anesthetise yourself for a time, then the horror of it all grabs you by the throat. You can be cushioned for so long and then the rock bites. The mud slides, the floods and waves rage on the land. The earth’s crust moves for a couple of seconds and cities are flattened while the lucky ones escape to shiver in tents in the cold mountains. The famine never ends and peace still does not return to the villages. The merchants ply their evil trade in poison and guns and the wars continue: wars and stories of wars.
This week it was Syria and two distressing reports. One was by the Euro Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN ) “Violence against women: Crimes of impunity” highlighting again the despicable nature of modern warfare, where women are targeted and rape is an instrument of war. The second was even more harrowing. It was by the Oxford Research Group “Stolen Futures: the hidden toll of child casualties in Syria” The statistics alone are damning. During the conflict, 7,557 children were killed by explosives, 2,008 by aerial bombardment, 2,806 from small arms including sniper fire and summary executions and 112 were tortured and killed with infants among them. That means that picking out children to be tortured and executed is, like the raping of women, just another instrument of war. It is almost impossible take in or believe. We have come to accept that children will inevitably be caught up in conflicts and suffering, but to specifically target children as this report, if true, clearly shows, represents a new level of horror a new depth of evil. It is hard to come to terms with it. Immediately there is white hot anger and utter contempt for those who are behind the killings. There is also deep shame and guilt at our impotency. The great powers in the world with all the resources at their disposal can do nothing other than make noises and carry off a few chemical weapons to be destroyed. Our parliament having voted against intervention, has kicked into touch any possibility of standing up to the bullies for some time to come. It is almost as if behind a veneer of liberal niceties we are with Joseph Conrad’s Kurtz “let the brutes exterminate themselves” “It’s not our problem”
But what can you do? What can I do?
Inevitably I am back crying to God who can do something and I find the voice of the sons of Korah in Psalm 46: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…… Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’