Article Dec 15, 2016

Rage and heartbreak: required reactions to Aleppo

“Dear world, there's intense bombing right now. Why are you silent? Why? Why? Why? Fear is killing me & my kids.” That’s a tweet from Fatemah, a mom trapped with her children in Aleppo.

Why are we silent?

Try telling Fatemah that it’s Christmas over here. Winter storms are blasting much of the country. The Federal Reserve raised interest rates. We’re wrapped up in the pageantry of the president-elect’s Cabinet picks.

And it seems we’ve lost the capacity for outrage over what’s happening to innocent people in places like Syria and Iraq. In between spikes of interest like 3-year-old Alan Kurdi’s body on the beach; 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh’s vacant stare after being pulled from the rubble; and now the heart-wrenching goodbye videos from people trapped in Aleppo, we revert to complacency.

How do we keep our hearts tender for the suffering in our world? How do we see as God sees, care as he cares, love as he loves?

Most Christians have heard the powerful prayer of World Vision’s founder, Bob Pierce: “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” I suspect it was as much a prayer for himself as for others. A broken heart can be healed, and Bob wanted his to stay broken, to keep him in the place God wanted him to be: absolutely intolerant of a child’s pain.

We need to do the same if we want to be used by God in these situations. We have to let suffering into our hearts. Other people’s pain should touch us deeply and set off our rage and move us to action.

In the past few years, my travels to the Middle East and encounters with Syrian refugees and displaced Iraqis have kindled a “holy unrest” in me about their plight. But the truth is, you don’t have to go there to care. Ordinary people are speaking directly to us, using technology and social media to metaphorically grab us by the collars.

Fatemah, who I quoted above, posted on her daughter Bana’s Twitter account, which has 295,000 followers. In recent months, the sweet, doe-eyed girl with missing teeth has told about seeing people injured and killed, hearing bombs falling, lacking clean water. The tone of her tweets has become more dire as fighting intensified in Aleppo.

Imagine it’s World War II and Anne Frank is tweeting to the world. Bana’s situation is just as precarious.

I join my voice with those in Aleppo imploring Americans to get outraged over the senseless violence. Use your rage to compel action. You can pray. You can tell your congressional representative that the U.S. government needs to do more to stop Syria’s bleeding. You can give to World Vision or to other organizations providing relief.

But don’t stop there. Let your heart be broken for the suffering in the Middle East and around the world. Pray it stays broken as long as any mother anywhere pleads for help and any child fears this night will be her last.

Join World Vision’s Stephanie Hammond and others as we join our voice for human dignity at Evangelicals for Life 2017.

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