08/30/2013 12:36 EDT | Updated 10/30/2013 05:12 EDT

Syrian Children Were Always "Defenceless"

Earlier this week, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden decried the use of chemical weapons on "defenceless men, women and children" in Syria.

Questions remain about who controls Syria's store of deadly chemical weapons and whether or not Syrian President Bashar Assad himself ordered the strike. But as someone who works for an international aid and development agency looking out for children, two things are deadly certain to me:

  • The children who died in the attack suffered horrific pain in the last hours of their lives
  • Those children have been defenceless ever since the war in Syria began.

It's unnerving how easy it is to become complacent to events overseas. Earlier in the Syrian conflict, the idea of a boy being shot in the foot while buying bread in the marketplace was horrifying enough. As things intensified, many Canadians were shaken by the image of children playing in their bedrooms when an eerie sound signalled the imminent attack of a rocket on their neighbourhoods.

But then, the weeks dissolved into months. The atrocities blended together. A thousand refugees became ten thousand, then a hundred thousand. And all of a sudden, a child waking screaming in the night as she relived the death of her father fell on deaf ears.

Motaz naps in the tiny rooms he shares with seven relatives in Jordan. In his short life, he's experienced a harrowing escape from his own Syrian neighbourhood, carried by screaming relatives who ran as their house was burned.

I don't want to point a finger of blame here in Canada. Government, the media, and many Canadians have tried to keep Syrians in mind amidst the various other issues competing for their attention.

But if the chemical weapons attack that has shaken us out of our sunny summer mentality is to mean anything real, anything lasting, we have to acknowledge that the children of Syrians have always been defenceless. Not weak, not without inherent human strength and dignity. But completely unable to defend themselves against the terror that's taken over their lives.

This weekend, would you consider doing something small, as a way of standing up for the children of Syria? Here are three options:

  • Help get the word out via your Twitter or Facebook networks: children in Syria do not deserve what's happening to them, and can't defend against it. We need to stand up for them.
  • Text WORLD to 45678 to donate $5 to World Vision, so we can provide help to children both in Syria and in neighboring countries.
  • If you feel so inclined, please pray for the children of Syria.

As the weeks progress, I challenge you not to see the recent chemical weapons attack as "the worst it can get," with the absence of further such attacks as a sign that we've come back from the precipice. Picture nightmares you've had -- you know the kind -- when you've been unable to run from the terrifying presence that's been coming for you.

Know that, even without what I pray will be the absence of further chemical weapons attacks, tens of thousands of Syrian children are living such nightmares still.

Syria War In August (Warning: Graphic Images)