‘First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me’.
The picture above is from the Nigerian civil war (1967-1970). I teared up while looking at Getty Image’s archives of the war. I wondered if someone I knew was among these kids. Both of my parents lived through the war and seeing these pictures made me appreciate more how horrible the war must have been. My parents hardly tell us about that time. They only discuss it in snippets: “We ate that during the war”, they would say about a leaf we consider poisonous today; ‘He died of kwashiorkor during the war’, they would say in reference to an uncle I never met. And about an Aunty’s husband who had long been assumed dead they would explain: ”He went to Lagos during the onset of the war but never returned”. The only time I came close to understanding what happened during the Biafra war was when I read Chimamanda Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun.
What prompted me to write this blog however was NBC’s News yesterday (March 12, 2014) on the unrest in Syria. It reminded me of how blessed I am to have the things I take for granted; made me realize that being sad because I don’t have a job is being insensitive to the plight of a woman who fled Syria and just had a baby in a refugee camp in Lebanon where she lives in a tent seated on mud with her husband and young kids.
Seeing that news made me reflect on the injustice in the world: that innocent children would die and be orphaned because of the pride and arrogance of a few men who by the way first make sure their immediate family members are kept out of harm’s way. The news also stirred me from my slumber and indifference to what goes on around me. It is interesting how we tend to notice things we previously ignored only after we raise our consciousness to them. This morning was the first time I took notice of the tag #ChildrenofSyria on twitter and an online petition requesting signatures for a call to action on the crisis in Syria.
How the world can go on while thousands of children keep dying from the hostilities in Syria is beyond me. It is so easy to look away, indifferent to the sufferings of others. But the truth is that while the UN continues to try to not interfere, to respect Syria’s sovereignty, Al-Assad will continue to orphan and kill tens of thousands of children in Syria. He will continue to block international aids to the opposition just to get them to surrender .
I am happy that as I write, nineteen U.S. senators have introduced a resolution calling on President Barack Obama to develop and send to Congress “a more robust U.S. strategy for addressing the Syrian humanitarian crisis.”
And for my non-senator reader at home, here are a couple of things you could for #ChildrenofSyria: donate to humanitarian agencies who have access to them, and pray for them.
To prevent future wars, we could start by teaching our children how to not be bullies at school. We could also teach them how to dialogue, how to make compromises, how to respect and try to see things from other people’s perspective. Because the truth is, we needn’t fight for there to be peace.
And as for my home country Nigeria where a war is currently brewing, it is time history on Nigeria civil war is introduced in schools. That way, violents youths in the country will learn that in the end, what is lost in a war almost always outweighs what is gained.