This frigid wintry morning I retrieved the New York Times to see a front page picture of children killed or wounded in war over 50 years. Accompanying the photos was Michael Kimmelman’s “Aleppo’s Faces Beckon to Us, To Little Avail,” a lament that the images streaming out of Syria seem to have generated so little outrage.
Coincidentally, last evening George Payne emailed “The First Genocide of the 21st Century is a War on Children.” A recent first time father himself, George offers his lament for the children of Syria.
A graduate of the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, George teaches philosophy Finger Lakes Community College and Niagara County Community College. He is the founder of Gandhi Earth Keepers International.
The First Genocide of the 21st Century is a War on Children by George Payne
Make no mistake, until the children are liberated from the battle zones of Syria, we are their judge, jury, and executioner. All of us. No one is guiltless.
To be graphic, every last baby which has been incinerated by the flames of kerosene and napalm is our responsibility. Every baby who has been ripped to soft shreds by the shrapnel of grenades is our responsibility. We are responsible for those precious beings who choke to death on the fumes of purple haze chemicals. And for every baby that is pinned to the basement floor by falling asphalt and exploding bricks, we are responsible. This is the world that we have created for these children. This is the world that we have allowed to become so sedated, empty, vicious, and wasteful. This is the world that brought these babies to the torture chamber and then walked away like sulking cowards into the misty twilight of comfortable forgetfulness.
The world is witnessing (and not witnessing) a holocaust. Complicit in this crime against humanity, we have all become bystanders to the century’s first genocide. The U.N. estimates about 400,000 people have been killed since the war first started back in March 2011. Over 50,000 children have been slaughtered. The truth is, the UN does not even keep track of the death toll due to the inaccessibility of many areas and the complications of navigating conflicting statistics put forward by the Syrian government and armed opposition groups.
We do know that in 2016, the United Nations identified 13.5 million Syrians requiring humanitarian assistance, of which more than 6 million are internally displaced within Syria, and over 4.8 million are refugees outside of Syria. Along with government-backed assaults, drone strikes and independent killings led by rebel forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported atrocities happening against children that are unimaginable even by the ghastly standards of modern warfare.
As a human race we can not continue to turn away from the children of Syria. I do not have an answer. I do not have a strategy. I do not have hope. All I have is a prayer. To the UN, I beseech you. To NATO, I beseech you. Pope Francis, I beseech you. President Obama, I beseech you. To the EU, I beseech you. China, I beseech you. Vladimir Putin, I beseech you. Bashar al-Assad, I beseech you. Donald Trump, I beseech you. ISIS, I beseech you. Stop this wholesale massacre of children. God, I beseech you. Stop this war. Stop this war. Stop this war.
Even today we raise our hand against our brother… We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves as if it were normal we continue to sow destruction, pain, death. Violence and war lead only to death.