Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Uncertain Health in an Insecure World – 69

“War is Over?”

When John Lennon and Yoko Ono released Happy Xmas (War is Over) in December 1971, the song was both inspirational, and aspirational. The Harlem Community Choir sang back up to lyrics set to the traditional English ballad, Skewball. In the pre-social media era, Lennon had learned the hard way how to do political and social advocacy. “Now I understand what you have to do – Put your message across with a little honey.

So this is Christmas (2015), and what have you done?”

And in Syria, war isn’t over.

Of the 12 million refugees displaced inside Syria or fleeing that morass, half are less than 18 years old, and 40% are children under the age of 12. Nearly 80% of these child refugees have experienced a death in the family, 60% have seen someone beaten or shot, and 30% have been kicked, shot at or physically hurt. Some 12,000 children have died since 2011. But it’s the emotional trauma that endures, with PTSD levels 10-times the prevalence among other children around the world. The resulting mental health sequelae will follow them whatever country of asylum they reach.

Many organizations and countries have done something.

Save the Children, UNHCR, UNICEF, USAID, and 30+ other governmental, non-governmental and religious agencies are all doing their level best to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis. Children “living” in makeshift camps suffer from illnesses like diarrhea and cholera, malnutrition and abuse. Many are exploited as fighters, human shields or non-combatant supporters. With another bitter winter coming to the region, for these poorly clothed children, things will only get worse.

Jesus Christ was born 10 miles south of Jerusalem, in Bethlehem, just 140 miles from Damascus.

On March 4, 1966, John Lennon casually commented to British journalist Maureen Cleave that, “We’re more popular than Jesus now.” And while the 24 year-old Beatle noted that “Jesus was all right”, he also predicted that “Christianity will go.” Unlike some blatantly unapologetic Christian U.S. politicians making ISIS fear-infused hateful statements about Muslims, John and Beatles manager Brian Epstein had to eat the proverbial carpet of apology.

Barrel bombs dropped from Syrian army helicopters kill more civilians than ISIS (above).

Fear of these airborne attacks in al-Assad opposition neighborhoods has fueled this largest human exodus since World War II. In the view of Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch executive director, this governmental terrorism of the Syrian population, “Is a recruitment bonanza for ISIS because the group can claim to be standing up to these atrocities.” The global community has lined up against or with the al-Assad regime. The European Union talks about addressing the mysterious “root causes” of migration to Europe, while remaining largely passive. Also seemingly impotent, the UN Security Council has repeatedly called for an end to “indiscriminant employment of weapons in populated areas… such as the use of barrel bombs.

With Russia, Iran continues to back the al-Assad regime, making these war crimes possible.

Two millennia ago, three wise men traveled from the East to worship one newborn King of the Jews. Balthasar, Melchior and Gaspar were from ancient Persia, now modern Iran. After the origination of Christianity among Jewish Aramaic-speaking Semitic peoples of Judah (Israel, Palestine and Jordan), it quickly spread through modern day Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. From there, like modern refugees (below), Christianity migrated into Greece, Armenia, Georgia, the Caucasus and the Balkans.

Syriac Christianity, centered in Antioch and along the eastern Mediterranean coast – the Levant – believes there were as many as twelve wise Magi!

This small part of our little blue orb, known in Arabic as al-Sham (the Sh in Da’esh), is now part of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The Levant has long been a hotbed of religious strife, whatever we’ve called the area.

In the Levant, despite many wise men and well-meaning saviors, there’s always something deadly happening to create martyrs.

But children... Seriously? 

Reflecting on 2015's uncertain health in an insecure world, we and those walking with us in the Square from around the world still aspire to…

“A very merry Christmas and a happy New Year,
Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear.

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