Friday, April 7, 2017

Prayers for God's People in Syria

I was not planning to post anything here today; I've been on a bit of a whirlwind of reading and blogging this week and I had intended for today to be a day of rest, leading into an unplugged Holy Week with the brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist. And mostly it has been...

But the news about the bombing last night in Syria has occupied my prayers and thoughts all day and prompts this brief post about soup and some other thoughts as well.

I received Soup for Syria: Recipes to Celebrate Our Shared Humanity this past Christmas. In the Forward, Carlo Petrini, founder of The Slow Food Movement. writes these words: "the effort to keep our unique food traditions alive is the key to our dignity and our future, even in the midst of very harsh conditions. For we have all been migrants compelled by hunger or war to seek a better life."

The cookbook is a collection of recipes and photographs by Barbara Abdeni Massaad, who lives in Beirut, Lebanon. What makes it different is that in addition to soup recipes and pictures of the soups, it also includes pictures of people,many of them children, taken at refugee camps.

A week ago I made the Aleppo Red Lentil Soup shown below. In a strange way that I think only people who really enjoy cooking "get" - making that soup was a form of prayer for me. The people of Syria were in my mind and on my heart as I cooked and as the smells of Middle-Eastern spices filled my kitchen. Proceeds from the sale of the book had already gone to feed Syrian refugees back in December. If I left it on a shelf and never cooked a recipe from this gift, the "transaction/donation" had already been completed and some percentage of the sale price had already been contributed to help support Syrian refugees.

But for me, those words of Petrim's really do ring true. When we share the food of another culture we really begin to see them, even in the midst of very harsh present-day conditions. And in that seeing we potentially increase our respect for their dignity, even as we entrust God with their future and commit to join God in doing justice and loving mercy,

Our president used phrases several times during the presidential campaign about "bombing the hell out of places" - places where people live. I winced every time he said it. I cannot say whether or not the president was right to order this action to bomb an airfield last night in retaliation for the Assad's chemical bombing of innocent people earlier this week. I do pray that no innocent civilians were killed as "collateral damage" and I do think that Gandhi had it right, that "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." But perhaps militarily, and politically, this was the "right" call. Only time will tell.

In the meantime, however, we do well to pay attention to the president's own about-face here. The truth is that the office carries enormous responsibilities, and real leadership is required not to order the military to "bomb the hell" out of someone, but the next day and the day after that to figure out what work the State Department needs to do.

The president needs and deserves and has my prayers. But here's the thing: the death of those little children who were killed by chemical weapons and whose images the president was so clearly moved to see; they are the same kids on the pages of my cookbook. I'd gladly send him a copy if I thought he'd open it. They are the same kids who have been trying to get into this country as refugees. They are not terrorists; they have been terrorized. And those Russian "friends" of the president's: they've been propping up Assad's regime for a long time. That's not fake news. That's the truth.

So what next? If the president's heart has been truly moved to see the humanity of the people of Syria, then I give thanks to God for that. But what happened last night doesn't make those kids safer today or tomorrow. So let's figure out how to really help them by doing justice there, by getting tough with the Russians, and by working for peace. That takes more than slogans and it takes more than cruise missiles. It takes commitment. It takes time, even when time is of the essence.

Whether or not the president is ready for that, I am. And I pray that the Church I love continues to see our neighbors; all of them. And in seeing them, to work for immigration reform that welcomes the stranger and supports ministries that do the hard, holy work of refugee resettlement. So that we can share our gifts, and our food, and our culture with one another as we celebrate our shared humanity.

No comments:

Post a Comment