Syrians Lament International Onslaughts

By Bauman, Rick Cober | Winnipeg Free Press, April 28, 2018 | Go to article overview

Syrians Lament International Onslaughts


Bauman, Rick Cober, Winnipeg Free Press


It is the burned and blackened bus that I remember most. Perched and overturned atop a pile of concrete rubble, it was a stark signal of what lay ahead.

I had seen similar mountains of debris — the remains of houses and shops — in other places in Syria. But in this location, the rubble had been bulldozed into a long, low line that snaked along the road on the edge of Damascus.

Our host, riding in the front seat, told us this was the demarcation line, the line that divided the Syrian forces’ zone from the armed groups they are fighting.

“Our driver says it is the safest place when there is shelling,” he informed us. “Soldiers could be near the line and no one wants to harm their own. So, no one shells near the demarcation line.”

I was part of a Mennonite Central Committee delegation visiting the Christian and Muslim organizations we work with in Syria; through these partnerships, in the middle of a conflict zone, MCC has been able to carry out our largest humanitarian response since the Second World War.

Our pleasant visit with Syrian Orthodox Church partners had ended abruptly when exploding shells rattled windows and doors. Even now, two months after my visit to Syria in February, my spouse is still incredulous that I wasn’t more fearful on that high-speed ride near the demarcation line on the way back to our hotel.

Likely, I simply did not understand all of what was going on around me. And I start from a trusting assumption that the world I live in will turn out fine for me, as it has most of the time, for most of my 58 years.

My privilege, as much as anything, was what kept the fears at bay.

There is no such assurance for the people in east Ghouta, this zone just outside Damascus where for weeks earlier this year there were daily images of horror. Dying children carried by wounded parents from crumbled homes. No privilege here to protect from a conflict that grinds on into its eighth year.

Our delegation travelled to Syria to support and encourage our Syrian neighbours, to be a small sign of hope that they are not forgotten. Community after community of internally displaced people thanked us for making the journey and for remembering them in their time of sorrow.

But it is hard to avoid the deeper reality underlying the crisis. MCC is not responding to the victims of localized violence. …

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