The slaughter of Syria's Christians - doing nothing is not an option
This young boy sleeps in between the graves of his dead parents. The location is unknown, except for it being somewhere in Syria. The faith of the boy is unknown, but it is immaterial. The suffering of innocents breaks the heart. The grieving of a child is an agony shared by the whole of humanity. His loss is bottomless; his despair boundless; his tears endless.
He is just one child in a sea of suffering in which thousands are being butchered and millions displaced. As ever, the Christians are getting it worst. According to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), violence against Christians in Syria is becoming "one of the worst persecutions endured by Christians in this part of the third millennium". Christianity risks being expunged from the region altogether. Another report talks of Christians being beheaded simply for wearing a cross, and tells us that "more than 600,000 Christians - a third of the total Syrian faithful - are internally displaced or living as refugees in neighboring countries".
Other estimates put the figure at 1.3 million - that is two thirds of the entire Christian population of Syria. They have no destiny and serve no purpose: they are victims fate and chance. We can talk of the "Christian hope" and waffle on about God's promises and the unfathomable peace of Christ. But when you are cold and hungry, words bring little comfort. And when you're grieving for your mum and dad, a rational appeal to God's coming vindication offers absolutely nothing.
Apparently the UK is giving aid, along with the rest of the EU, which amounts to millions of pounds. That's nice, but this boy needs a hug, a shoulder, and new familial relationships to begin to heal his lamenting spirit. He doesn't understand talk of the anti-Assad forces, Al-Qaeda or the Free Syrian Army. He doesn't do politics. He just wants to put his arms around his parents and be loved again.
And his story - whatever it is - will be just one among the multitudes of the innocent dead. When St John saw the martyred souls beneath the altar crying "How long?" (Rev 6:9f), he saw the question as the Old Testament prophets had left it:
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.Outstanding injustice awaits the final intervention of God to judge this world and to give life to the dead. Daniel expresses the limitations of a purely cosmological theodicy in chapters 4 and 5. It is the opacity of history, the sealed scroll in God's hand, that reduces John to tears. It is the revelation of the Lion of Judah, who is also the sacrificed Lamb of God, which affords us a glimpse of joy that evil and suffering are made intelligible.
And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever (Dan 12:2f).
But this doesn't comfort the grieving children of Homs, Maaloula or Aleppo. We can pray and/or send money. Or we can physically go there and weep with those who weep. We can petition the Government to open our borders and welcome them as we should all widows and orphans. Whatever or whichever, doing nothing is not an option.