Beam: Think about children of Syria

By By Jim Beam / American Press

You can lose your appetite at the

dinner hour while watching the evening news. My wife closes her eyes

because the suffering

of little children is more than she can bear to watch. Yet, that

is the way daily life is for children in Syria, and the rest

of the world seems incapable of doing anything about the slaughter

that has already claimed the lives of nearly 12,000 children.

The minute Jo Ann and I read a

devotional Friday morning from “The Upper Room,” I knew I had to say

something today about

those children as we approach Christmas. We need to keep them in

our hearts and minds as our children and grandchildren enjoy

the season, free from fear, hunger and disease.

Over one million children have fled Syria since the effort to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad began over 1,000 days ago.

I don’t want to offend non-believers

and those who practice other religions, but the only way I know how to

talk about the

human tragedy in Syria is from my Christian perspective. And it

was a Scripture from the Book of Mark (Chapter 10:13-16) that

convinced me the issue could not be ignored.

“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this,

he was indignant,” the Scripture said.

“He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took

the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”

You want the same blessings for children like Abeer, 7, whom NBC News said was among a group of children holding pots and

buckets outside of a food hall in Damascus, Syria. She was waiting for a handout for her 11 brothers and sisters.

“She waits for more than an hour before she is given some hot noodle soup, then struggles to carry the contents of her metal

pot down the street through traffic...,” said Keir Simmons, foreign correspondent for NBC.

Watching Abeer trying to get that pot of soup to her hungry brothers and sisters without spilling it tears your heart out.

You long desperately to be able to give her a hand, but she’s another world away.

News reports tell you there is no time for a normal childhood in Syria. And hunger is only one of the dangers. NPR talked

about children who were interviewed on the streets of Homs.

“A little girl says she has seen many dead bodies. ‘When there is an attack, bodies are brought to my school,’ she explains.

‘My dad helps with the burials.’ ”

War Child, founded in 1993 during

turmoil in Yugoslavia, said the two filmmakers who started the

organization were shocked

by the way children’s lives were being torn apart by that

conflict. Now, the group is focusing on Syria, where it says 12

children on average are being killed per day. Nearly 4.3 million

children inside the country are in urgent need of humanitarian


World Vision, another relief organization, said Syrian children are especially susceptible to malnutrition, disease, lack

of food, poor sanitary conditions, sexual abuse and exploitation. More than 6.5 million people have been displaced within

Syria and some 2.2 million have fled to Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, the agency said.

NPR talked with a 10-year-old girl in Beirut, Lebanon, who was on the street at night selling packages of gum to earn money

for her family.

“I am from Syria; there is always shelling. I was afraid I was going to die,” she said.

Mathew Hollingworth, who is a director

for the World Food Program, told NBC, “A year ago,we were feeding one

million people,

today we are feeding 4.24 million. We have to have some kind of

solution politically in Syria because the humanitarian crisis

is getting to the point I’ve never seen in any other country I’ve

worked in.”

World Vision said the displaced Syrians live where they can find shelter — in abandoned buildings, sheds, spare rooms, garages

and in tent and camp settlements. UNICEF said at an Iraqi refugee camp there is snow on the surrounding hills and the camp

streets are thick with mud.

War Child said the conflict in Syria “has grown into a war on childhood that has been characterized by more grim milestones

than any other in recent history.”

The organization said the everyday

brutality of the Syrian civil war on children is rarely newsworthy.

There also doesn’t

appear to be any solution to the brutal war, and that speaks

volumes about the failure of political systems around the world

to come together to try and end the turmoil.

At this point, we have to concentrate on what we can do as individuals to help relieve the suffering of those Syrian children.

The organizations mentioned here have done great work in Syria, and there are others equally effective. Give through them,

if you can.

We can make this Christmas more meaningful if we remember those words of Jesus: “Let the little children come to me, and do

not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

• • •

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or