Imagine having to flee the place you call home. Imagine living where you fear being shot at by rebel groups or your own government every time you step out your door. Imagine losing your father or husband or other family members to a terrorist group.
Imagine arriving in a new country whose language and customs are foreign to you. Imagine being confronted with a radically different way of life–a way of life that you would not normally choose, but a way of life you had to accept in order for a chance to survive.
This is just some of the what happens in Children of Syria, a PBS Frontline documentary episode that follows the story of four children from a family surviving war-torn Aleppo and their escape to a new life in Germany. Directed by Marcel Mettelsiefen, the documentary shows not only the physical destruction of the war but also the destruction of childhood and innocence. One of the daughters’ favourite activities is helping her father build bombs while he leads a rebel group. The eldest sister tries to teach her younger siblings so they can have an education. The youngest is afraid of planes because she believes they all carry bombs.
I saw vignettes of this film during World Humanitarian Day at the United Nations. There was not one dry eye in the several-thousand seat General Assembly Hall. At the end, Hala, the mother, stood on stage and spoke through an interpreter to a standing ovation about the crisis in Syria, asking the world to hold on to that which unites us: love, respect, and freedom. What struck me the most was when she said, “we may have lost our homes, but we have not lost our ability to change this world.”
If you do one thing this weekend, watch this documentary (it’s less than an hour). It’s available online for free from this link. You won’t regret it and you’ll gain insight into not only what is happening in Aleppo but also to the plight of refugees today.
On 19 September, the United Nations General Assembly will hold a high-level summit for refugees and migrants, with the aim of bringing countries together behind a more coordinated and humane approach. Tweet your leader to demand action on this issue.