Today, the world remembers a child who never had the chance to seize life at all. His name was Alan Kurdi. You'll recall him as the little Syrian boy who, was found dead on a beach in Turkey the morning of September 2, 2015. He had stepped into a crowded inflatable boat with his family the night before, in a desperate attempt to each Europe in safety. Alan's death rocked people everywhere -- from families in their homes to leaders in the halls of power. When children like Alan reached out for help, we didn't reach back.
The relentless bombardment on innocent civilians continue with casualties, death and destruction occurring every second. But this is just an ordinary day in Aleppo where simply every place is a target -- mosques, morgues, markets, bakeries, hospitals, ambulances, fire trucks, with absolutely nowhere safe for people to go.
After living amid the Syrian refugee crisis in Turkey for a year after graduating from the University of Toronto, Nouhaila Chelkhaoui knew she wanted to help make a positive impact on the lives of newcomers. Her return to Toronto gave her the opportunity to do just that, as she joined U of T startup iamsick's newest initiative, which helps refugees navigate Canada's complex healthcare system.
Collapsed buildings are everywhere. Families huddle in the ruins, while aid groups struggle to keep up with people's basic needs for food, water, medical care and shelter. I can see humanitarian aid is helping, but it is never a long-term solution. So much more is needed.
This week marks five years since the start of the Syrian conflict. The war has inflicted a devastating toll on millions of desperate Syrian families, resulting in a humanitarian crisis that has rippled throughout the region. More than 4.3 million Syrian refugees are now trying to piece their lives back together in neighbouring countries. That's where the No Lost Generation project comes in. It's a global initiative, supported by donor countries and non-governmental organizations, to help save the future of displaced Syrian children. The goal is to provide safe education and psycho-social support which includes protecting children from exploitation, abuse and violence.
Home is a tent divided in two for Um Yasmine and her five children. The Syrian widow fled to a dusty field in Lebanon three years ago, as war piled up bodies around her beloved city of Homs. Now, a bedsheet hangs down the middle of her crowded tent shared with another refugee family. Um Yasmine is so tired of this makeshift life. She just wants to go home.
"Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you." This verse, objectively radical given its relevance today, is particularly applicable in the context of terrorist violence, where strangers are willing to viciously stab, shoot and murder total strangers. One need only think back to the Paris attacks and ask: how can such hatred be justified?
Numbers coming from the government and political operatives should give pause to any observer. Why? Because rarely do either have the expertise or data sources to make reliable predictions. When they do, other factors come into play that skews the totals. The usual culprit is misguided optimism to demonstrate competence or distinguish from the opposition.
Despite there being no shortage of reasons for despair, we must start this new year with hope. There is no doubt that the situation in Syria is dire. But just as with Ebola, we can mitigate the dreadful human toll if we retain our instincts for empathy, and remain steadfast in our defence of fundamental humanitarian principles.
Those who were indifferent before the Paris attacks are now outspoken critics of Prime Minister Trudeau's commitment to accept 25,000 refugees and bring our CF-18's home. Some of the comments I have seen are downright vitriolic. It has been suggested to me by a number of people that we re-consider reminding people at this time that we're sponsoring a refugee family. It might be bad for business and could alienate more than a few friends. I find it incredibly sad that the current state of affairs is such that I have even faint concerns about a backlash for my desire to help those in need. I certainly won't let it deter me.