in all the chaos in the world there has to be hope, for without hope we have nothing. Yesterday I met people who had hoped above hope that the watching world would come to their aid but it was not to be.
I have never been inside the Houses of Parliament before yesterday the closest I had come had been to stand on Westminster Bridge and gaze across the water. Last night I saw the view of the bridge from inside this historic building. We had walked through corridors and cloisters, we crossed a courtyard and up a stairway. History, the sense of what had gone before lingers in the walls and breathes out all around. It is at once breathtaking and intimidating. Determined not to be overwhelmed, I reminded myself of my right to be here, that this belongs to us all, and we made our way to a reception, hosted by a Baroness, with speeches from a Lord.
I had not expected, that in that room, with history all around me, I would find myself reduced to tears. That my connection with the world would be pulled taut and the majesty of the occasion would be reduced to pure emotion.
For, amongst the Lords, MP’s and CEO’s, aside from the corporate guests, the clerics and the aid workers, the charity staff and the grassroots groups, there were two people for which the Syrian war is not something on the TV, something to be read about on line or in print, for them this is their life. A doctor and a journalist, they together with their daughter, lived in the beautiful, historic city of Aleppo. Their lives were changed forever with the war. She spoke quietly and gently, of living a life in a city under siege. She spoke of having no food, no water, no hope. He talked of losing friends, of family gone, of working in a war zone, of how it is and how it was.
It stopped me in my tracks. I had thought I was familiar with the Syrian people’s struggles. I have watched images some so shocking to see that I will never be able to unsee them. Indeed there are some that continue to play in my head on dark nights. I have met refugees, I have worked alongside our Muslim friends to fill containers, all sent with love and hope that it might make things a little better. I thought I knew this stuff. In fifteen minutes last night, for me, everything changed.
I know now that whatever we do, even though it is done with great good heart, it is not enough. I know now that when I watched on the news the siege in Aleppo, when I saw the films of the children trapped, the hospitals bombed and the mothers crying, I now know that they were waiting. Waiting for the watching world to act. To stand up and say ‘STOP for pities sake stop’. Then they realised that although world kept watching it forgot to act.
Later I held the hand of the woman who had spoken. I had intended to thank her, to wish her well, but when it came to it I could not. The handshake became a hand hold, I looked at her and she looked at me. I had no words. Tears were threatening to fall, I forbade them, I have no right to cry. In that minute we were as one with all the women in the world. As we held ever tightening hands, we understood, completely, without words what it is to care, to love and to say sorry. I knew that this shared understanding is what will motivate me from now on to shake this world something is done, until someone makes the change. Until we stop watching and start doing something.
In that reception I learned that we are all responsible for our actions and as such also for our inaction. I reflected on how I might feel if my world was reduced to rubble, to see my Granddaughter hungry and my friends die, and to know that the world is watching this happen, as they said it is 2017, all is there to see, and yet allowing it to continue. I learned that while packing socks and shipping food is important, it is not even slightly enough. I get it now in a way I hadn’t done before.
So, where does that leave me now? I believe we need to continue to do what we can where we can, to make our actions count. Be that raising money, packing donations or sending teddy bears, we are doing what we can. We need to step up, we need to hold those with the power to account. We need to see the world as it is, not as it is portrayed to us. We need to recognise our sisters and our brothers and to stand side by side with them. We need to be the good guys, we need to shout loud and long, we need to remember that for every person plucked from the sea, there are thousands still trapped in the nightmare of war. In camps and in prisons, in the rubble of buildings and all of them need us to not to forget them.
Without doubt this is our generations holocaust, the biggest thing to happen in my lifetime. I want to say that I stood up, I didn’t watch without doing something, and I want you to do that too. Go talk to your neighbours, write to your MP, talk to the press, inform yourself, don’t rely on mainstream news, they are not the truth, just do whatever you can, where you can and do it now, today because we cannot let this continue to happen.