Scripture: Isaiah 1.15, 17
Your hands are full of blood!…
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
Reflection: Grief Unable to be Counted
By John Tillman
In Judges Gideon defeats an army of such size, scripture says its camels could not be counted.
I have previously attributed this statement to a euphemism meaning “a lot” or jokingly expressed that the author probably just gave up counting them.
But I may simply have fallen victim to temporal provincialism, smugly thinking that the ancients couldn’t keep track of data during conflict when in fact, we—in a modern world of technological marvels—are unable to count the dead in Syria.
Megan Specia, writing for the New York Times says, “Without a clear tally of the deaths, advocates worry that the conflict will simply grind on indefinitely, without a concerted international effort to end it.”
It’s not just that we aren’t paying attention to the numbers of those killed in the Syrian conflict, it’s that increasingly, we just don’t know how many are being killed. The UN officially stopped counting in 2014, leaving the accounting to desperate volunteer organizations.
According to the Syrian Center for Policy Research, an independent Syrian research organization, the death toll from the conflict as of February 2016 was 470,000. The spread and intensification of fighting has led to a dire humanitarian crisis, with 6.1 million internally displaced people and 4.8 million seeking refuge abroad, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. By mid-2016, an estimated 1 million people were living in besieged areas and denied life-saving assistance and humanitarian aid.
The rest of today’s reflection is a repost of a portion of Steven’s writing on April 24th of 2015 entitled, Crying at the United Nations.
The President of the Syrian American Medical Society, Zaher Sahloul, added, “Clearly they were affected by what they have seen in the videos and what they have heard, many of them spoke outside the diplomatic language and many of them have said that this is outrageous and the perpetrators should be brought to justice.”
If modernism were capable of bringing peace to the earth we would have seen it by now.
If secularism were capable of bringing peace we would look to Europe, who would be well on the way.
If man’s religious longings were capable of bringing peace we wouldn’t be in this predicament in modern culture anyway.
In a world reeling from — and trapped in — the pain and brokenness of sin, God must fight for us. David, the psalmist, sees this and cries out in Psalm 31. Injustice has gained the upper hand and only the transcendent justice of the world’s creator is sufficient to restore peace.
For the rest of the 2015 post, follow the link in the list of articles after the Bible readings.
Our hearts, our news cycles, and our accounting methods may have grown calloused toward Syria. Yet God’s heart is still tender toward them. May we find ways to act in love and pray—with words or with tears.
Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Righteousness shall go before him, and peace shall be a pathway for his feet. — Psalm 85.13
– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
Full prayer available online and in print.
Isaiah 1 (Listen – 4:36)
Hebrews 9 (Listen – 4:40)
This Weekend’s Readings
Isaiah 2 (Listen – 3:00) Hebrews 10 (Listen – 5:33)
Isaiah 3-4 (Listen – 4:34) Hebrews 11 (Listen – 6:22)
Prior Park Forum Writing on Syria
- Crying at the United Nations 4-24-2015
- Stories of the Oppressed :: Readers’ Choice Original Publish date 11-20-2015
- Praying by Name :: Readers’ Choice Original Publish date 04-15-2016
- When the World Needs Us To Look: Readers’ Choice Original Publish date 6-24-2016
- NYT – How Syria’s Death Toll is lost in the Fog of War
- CNN – Syrian Civil War Fast Facts
- The Atlantic – (2014) The U.N. Has Stopped Counting the Deaths In Syria
- Human Rights Watch – Events of 2016 (estimates have gotten more conservative as data is less available and difficult to verify.)