… help for the men, women and children in and around Aleppo and other parts of Syria.
This year, I've noticed that how I feel about Christmas is different. The "holiday spirit" seems disconnected for me, because of what is going on in Syria, especially Aleppo. I can't and do not want to separate myself from that story because of this thing called solidarity. And my desire is that my gifts, both given and received, be in the form of donation to Syrian humanitarian aid.
Which, even though, and because, Aleppo is scheduled to be fully evacuated this week - Alhamdulillah (thanks be to God), is needed more than ever, as humanitarian organizations now have access to people in need.
Why do I care this much? How did it all begin?
Not just in the last few weeks. I'd say my solidary started well before 2011 in response to prayers for this gift of connection. Be careful what you pray for… Because having a spirit of solidarity can hurt. A lot. And it comes with obligation. To help wherever and however, and continue to teach others and spread the word and when all that is exhausted to simply honor them, stand with them in their suffering.
Having in early 2011 visited the Holy Land, standing near the border between Israel and Syria, I hold in my mind the memory and image of looking across to the beautiful rolling hills and trying to fathom war in such a peaceful setting.
I also see in my mind's eye the wall around Bethlehem, and the distant hills where the shepherds would have been guarding their sheep. Mary and Joseph at least found a cave. Tens of thousands of Syrians have nowhere to go.
It was in 2011 that the Arab Spring began; a series of anti-government protests, uprisings and armed rebellions that spread across the Middle East. Remember Egypt ousting Mubarak? The people decided they did not want to be ruled oppressively and they acted. And won. It wasn't really that simple, I'm just distilling it down here.
I moved to the Middle East - Doha, Qatar - in early 2012 for a one year Clinical Informatics contract. Qatar, home of the independent Al Jazeera news company, supported the Arab Spring, believing people deserved to start life over in peace . There seemed real possibilities that despotic leaders would be removed, and I held hope for the people in those countries.
While in Doha, I befriended a woman from Egypt, exiled so to speak to work in Doha for her own safetyShe missed her home and family desperately, and would eventually return to them. I hope she's ok.
During my time in Qatar I always felt safe. It was a wealthy, happy country, a moderate Islamic state. There were actually many more expats than nationals, which gave my experience there a surreal sense. Being there I learned more about the culture, Islam, and especially how much I determined for myself that the desert was a nice place to visit but I didn't want to live there.
So I made my way back to Midwest USA in the spring of 2013, and kept my ears open for what was going on there.
Curiously, although I purposely refrain from watching, reading and listening to the news for personal reasons, Aleppo caught my attention about a year ago and has called to me ever since.
OMG - Oh My Growth!~ I have just published a YouTube video called Appeal for Aleppo. I did this to generate more traction and public awareness about my passion to raise money by auctioning four of my original paintings - a quadriptych named Aleppo - for humanitarian aid in and around Aleppo. You can watch it here.
What do you want for Christmas this year? I think the familiar traditions and trimmings are lovely, and I would not want to detract from that for a bit. I look forward to the white elephant (aka silly) give exchange that is a fun family tradition
Perhaps as we gather as family, we could talk a bit about the very humble beginnings of Jesus' life. And acknowledge that today there are so many displaced Syrian people who would be grateful for a cave to call home.
Then, maybe we could take up a collection in thanksgiving for our blessings, and send it to a Syrian charity.
Out of solidarity.
All right... I gotta tell you, having spent the time over the last couple of hour fine tuning this blog and creating/uploading the video to YouTube, my passion has been ignited, and my spirits have lifted. Knowing the the world is listening is doing my hear and spirit a ton of good.
PS - did you know that Christmas is celebrated in Syria? Check it out here. Talk about solidarity...