Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The suffering of a nine-month-old baby in Aleppo

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
The Gospel reading at Mass on Sunday contained the line: 'Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last." (Luke 13:30). Indeed that sentiment has appeared in Gospel readings at Mass on at least three occasions in the last 10 days. 

I imagine it can be interpreted in a variety of ways but surely it is telling us to care for the weak and the fragile: at our peril can we stand idly by while people are being brutalised, exploited and killed.

Last Tuesday, August 16, the day after the feast of the Assumption, Channel Four News reported from one of the last hospitals still standing in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

The story it told was shocking. A nine-month-old baby covered in blood was rushed into the makeshift hospital. He had a wound at the side of his head, the result of shrapnel from a barrel bomb hitting him. His uncle, who was rushing him out of the house, was killed en route to the hospital.

It was almost impossible to watch it on television. A little nine-month-old baby to have this happen him. It's cruel, heartbreaking too. It was some relief to see the love and kindness of the hospital staff who were caring for him.

The planes that are flying over Syria dropping bombs have been made by large industrial corporations. Most likely by US, Chinese and Russian firms. 

According to the Institute of Strategic Studies, last year the US spent $597.5 billion on 'defence'. China spent $145.8 billion, Saudi Arabia $81.9 billion, Russia $65.6 billion and our neighbours, the United Kingdom $56.2 billion. 

Just imagine the number of wealthy people who made large sums of money in all that business. No fear of any of them or indeed their children being rushed into a makeshift hospital bleeding to death. 

But it's their hardware that is flying overhead unleashing the terror. Most likely the aircraft manufacturers all dine and wine in the best of restaurants, send their children to private schools. Sophisticated people, whether they be American, Russian, Saudi, British or Chinese.

Later that evening I was back thinking of that line in the Gospel: "Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last." This time  I had just finished talking to a man in his early 50s who has no spare cash, he has no resources and lives from hand-to-mouth. He has no job and he lives in a dingy one-room flat. He could not afford a suit for an upcoming wedding. Shocking, depressing too.

Has it ever dawned on you how in 'religious circles' there seems to be so little argument or dispute about this line in the Gospel? Seldom is there a heated debate about these sort of things. Compare the silence on these topics to what goes on in the area of sexual morality. Just look at all the scraps and rows that have developed over gay marriage and divorce. Allow gay marriage and divorce and the end is nigh but allow people become billionaires by building weapons of death and there's not a whisper. Who cares about a middle-aged man who can't afford to buy a suit for a wedding?

The day the Leaving Cert results came out a teacher I know was over the moon. Two of her pupils did well in English. "The odds are against them as they sleep rough," she said.

And then there are the one billion people who have not enough food to eat.

It's obscene. Baffling too.


Thomas G McCarthy said...

Michael, there have been so many tragic and horrific scenes that none of us can remember in detail even those we have seen. The one I remember in relation to Aleppo related to a five year-old boy, not a nine month-old one. I presume they are different stories?

Michael Commane said...

Correct. Two different children.

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