OPINON: Students have the power to help victims of Syrian conflict

IMG_1391Syria, a small nation in the Middle East, is currently in the midst of a massive civil war, one that has been brewing since 2011, and has finally managed to spill over in the past couple of years. What began with a group of protesters raging peacefully against the government establishment for maltreating 15 schoolchildren has erupted into nationwide war against the president, Bashar al-Assad, by rebel forces.

The conflict has since evolved from a relatively simple for-or-against the presidency to a dangerous fight that includes IS, an extremist Islamic group, the UK, and the US military forces.
However, the real cost of this war is not the damaged political systems, nor the chemical weaponry that is reported to have been used. It’s the civilians. And in particular, the children.

Over 4 million people have left their home country, becoming legal refugees by order of the UN, and over half of them are children. The war has targeted healthcare centers and schools, leaving another 7 million that are internally displaced without proper health services to take care of their children. Those that fled have taken refuge in many of the neighboring countries, but in many of those countries, the infrastructure cannot sustain such a huge influx of people, and many are still living in derelict conditions.

This is, and has been, a huge humanitarian crisis, reportedly the biggest since the Rwandan genocide about 20 years ago. But it doesn’t seem like the world is paying it much mind. Actually, and especially over here in the US, I’d be willing to bet most of us didn’t even know something of this scale was even occurring.

But I don’t fault us for that. We live in a society that is one of the most ethnocentric in the entire world, always has been. A lot of us grew up thinking the American way was the only way, and this has hugely shaped our worldview. We laugh and make fun (though lightly, I’m sure) of people who mispronounce words because their accents are slightly foreign. Ethnic food here consists of Americanized Chinese food, Americanized Italian food, Americanized Mexican food, the list goes on. Most of the Internet is written in English.

Most of the way we’ve grown up really is without knowledge of what’s really happening in the world, and it seems that people are fine with that. But what’s ironic about that is that we also live in a world where most, if not all, of the information we could ever want is right at our fingertips. It allows us to be able to connect with the entire world from any one place on the planet, a truly awesome feat. And we can use that.

It’s important that we educate ourselves. Things are happening in the world, big things, and there are ways we, supposedly lowly high school students, can help. We’re not powerless to the world around us anymore. Syria’s children are crying for help.
Let’s see how loudly we can answer them.

How to help: go online to https://www.mercycorps.org/donate/syria
Or to find out more: go online to http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/16979186

Written by Tricia-Marie Thomas (’16)
Contributing writer

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