Syria’s civil war has been called the worst humanitarian disaster of our time. Thus far more than 11 million people have been displaced (in addition to almost a quarter of a million people, many civilians, dead). More than half of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million urgently needs humanitarian assistance.
Numbers like that are scary. And they are too big to be effectively addressed with anything less than a worldwide solution. No one can sit back and say “Not my problem.” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks reminded us earlier this week hat “nothing in our interconnected world is a long way away…Never before have John Donne’s words rung more true: ‘Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.'”
We are, as Rabbi Sacks said being summoned to “love the stranger”:
I used to think that the most important line in the Bible was “Love your neighbour as yourself”. Then I realised that it is easy to love your neighbour because he or she is usually quite like yourself. What is hard is to love the stranger, one whose colour, culture or creed is different from yours. That is why the command, “Love the stranger because you were once strangers”, resonates so often throughout the Bible. It is summoning us now. A bold act of collective generosity will show that the world, particularly Europe, has learned the lesson of its own dark past and is willing to take a global lead in building a more hopeful future. Wars that cannot be won by weapons can sometimes be won by the sheer power of acts of humanitarian generosity to inspire the young to choose the way of peace instead of holy war.
Addressing the crisis is all of our responsibility.