This week, World Vision released a video showing what it might be like to have your classroom torn apart by war. In about two minutes, Life As a Classroom shows the destruction of once-friendly schoolroom over Syria's five-year conflict. As the video opens we see the teacher energetically teaching from the front. The walls are covered with colourful posters and a map of the world. All is peaceful. All is as it should be. Suddenly we hear the chanting of political protests in the street outside. Teacher and students move to the windows to look out. That's when things begin to change.
The first planes filled with Syrian refugees are touching down in Canada this week. We will no longer just be following their heartbreaking stories from a distance. Some of the people caught in this devastating conflict, people who have been so hotly debated about in the media, in workplaces, and around dinner tables, will now have a new home and a new life here in Canada. In order for this transition to happen, the Canadian newcomers will need much more than roofs over their heads and three square meals a day. It's absolutely essential that they feel welcome and supported.
I am unwilling to shake off the horror of seeing Alan Kurdi lying face down on the beach. If it were just one child, just one death, the story would still be heartbreaking. But the outraged conversations across Canada have quickly expanded to include Canada's wider response to this terrible conflict.
Alan Kurdi's image has captivated the world's attention and focused it on the ways in which those with the ability to rescue desperate people have failed to do so, to staggeringly horrific effect. It has focused Canada's attention, because whether or not he had hoped to join his family in Canada, he certainly has Canadian family that cared for him deeply. But Canada's government is not alone in being blameworthy; rather, it is in good company.
It's something the majority of Canadians intuitively feel: politics and politicians no longer seem like a channel for change or action, and so we tune them out. People and even partisans are disconnected from purpose beyond the election cycle. But in an election framed on change, maybe there's an opportunity here to reconnect politics and purpose.
As long-awaited Syria peace talks begin this week, World Vision's Tanya Penny will be watching closely. She has been living alongside Syrian refugees in Jordan for the past two months, telling their stories with words and photographs. Here, Tanya describes the heartbreak that even the camera can't capture.
The thuggish Putin thinks that Obama and the U.S. are so weakened, that he had the chutzpah to pen a highly critical Op Ed Piece in the New York Times, criticizing, among other things, America's view of itself as exceptional and unique. And criticizing hypocritically the U.S. for contemplating a military action, when Russia has been supplying arms to Assad to assist his regime in killing and gassing 100,000 of his own people. According to liberal CNN on Wednesday night, all the panellists agreed that Putin's Op Ed piece in the New York Times, was Putin's way of flipping the bird to Obama and the American people. This is what happens to the U.S. when its President leads from behind, or worse.
Earlier this week, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden decried the use of chemical weapons on "defenceless men, women and children" in Syria. As someone who works for an international aid and development agency looking out for children, something is deadly certain to me: Those children have been defenceless ever since the war in Syria began.
As the civil war in Syria continues, a significant number of Syrians remain loyal to the embattled government of Bashar Al-Assad. One Christian friend explained to me that although they didn't like the current regime, they considered it inevitable that, should it fall, Syria would descend into a state of violent chaos reminiscent of Afghanistan or Somalia.
I have been writing for over a year now of the need to affirm and implement the Responsibility to Protect doctrine to help save Syrian civilians being massacred by the Assad regime. Everything that was predicted would happen in Syria as a result of international action has in fact resulted, but from international inaction. It is now as timely as it is necessary to increase pressure on Assad, and those loyal to him.
The atmosphere in Damascus' old city became just a little bit tenser at the start of the last week of Ramadan when Syrian army soldiers were deployed here for the first time since the revolution began in March last year. The soldiers were seemingly under orders to search various houses, especially those in which the few remaining foreigners live. The house I was staying in was one of them.