Monday, April 18, 2016

Syria: Do you dare make a human connection?

Humans of Syria photo exhibition at University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley

On Saturday night I attended the opening of the photo exhibition Humans of Syria at University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley.

All of us have heard a lot about the war in Syria and the refugee crisis. How many of us can picture an actual Syrian person?

The exhibition at the Chapel invites you to look into the eyes of the people affected by the war, and enter into their stories. There are dozens of examples I could share with you.  The story of this little boy was the most unforgettable to me:

"I stopped going to school because of the situation here, but I miss it. I carry
 a pen with me wherever I go and write on anything I can. I write down my name,
 and the names of my dad and brother. My dad is in prison and my brother was
killed two years ago." (Moaz, 9 years old. He has been living under siege
for the past two years. Photo taken 08/04/2015 - Douma, Eastern Ghouta, Syria)

Perhaps the story is unforgettable because it is a story about a boy who identifies himself as I identify myself: as a writer. And maybe it is unforgettable because, when I look closely at the features of this boy's face, I see a remarkable resemblance to the face of my own sown.

You can look at lots of photos online. But I encourage you to go to see the exhibition in person and experience it up close, in the company of others.

Logan Square laments with Syria
I also encourage you to attend worship on a Sunday morning in the Chapel.  It provides an entirely new perspective on "going to church" when the sights and sounds and smells and fellowship of the liturgy are all amplified by the a photo exhibition like this -- and vice versa. It has a way of saying "this is not just an abstract exercise we're engaged in here."  This past Sunday, as I sat in the chapel, participating in the Eucharist and taking in the images all around me, I remembered the months in 2012 when we at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Logan Square, Chicago, were surrounded with images of the war in Afghanistan. And I remembered praying under the eagle monument in Logan Square during a vigil for those suffering in Syria.

Many of us are already involved in advocacy and service in connection with the war in Syria and the refugee crisis. This exhibition reminded me that if we hope to be effective we must keep seeking to make a deeper and deeper human connection.

For hours and additional information on the exhibition, see the details on the Facebook event page for the exhibition opening.

Related posts

Perhaps the most troubling residue of the Syria crisis is that so much of our national discussion was centered on what our interests are, and whether we can force others to do what we want, and who our friends and who our enemies are. What's missing in all this is the question: what can we do to alleviate the suffering of the people of Syria?

(See Syria: Where Have We Ended Up?)

If we are willing to see the beauty will it help us to overcome our fear?

(See Syria - Strange and Dangerous? or Familiar and Beautiful?)

Sergey Ponomarev won first prize in the 2016 World Press Photo awards: General News for this November 16, 2015 photo: "Refugees arrive by boat near the village of Skala on Lesbos, Greece."
(See Image to Action: Sergey Ponomarev on the Refugee Crisis)

If we are going to stave off a U.S. war against Iran, we are going to have to have some very difficult conversations with other Americans. Some people are extremely hostile. It's confusing and a bit frightening, but we're going to have to confront it.

(See Why Does Iran Arouse So Much Hostility?)