Syria is a crisis of our making too

February 18, 2016

When I watch news of the Syrian and Iraq civil wars, I think first of its terrible human cost: more than half of the 23 million Syrian population have fled their homes, with four million living as refugees outside Syria. Three million people have fled their homes in Iraq, many of whom may despair of ever being safe again in their own country.

That feeling of security in one’s day to day life is so easily taken for granted. Perhaps we do not even understand the concept of serenity until it is missing from our lives.

I also consider how these specific conflicts originated – and where. It is natural when our lives are disrupted and thrown into chaos to look for a reason, and perhaps try to rationalise the unthinkable situation by giving it a human face to blame.

Some turn in on themselves, others look to a neighbour, or someone whose religion they do not share. Yet I do not think there is anything spiritual in the current conflicts playing out across the countries of the Middle East – even though some participants try to claim God on their side.

Instead, I feel we could all own up to being involved – directly or indirectly – in the terrible destruction underway, because we have elected and supported the politicians in the UK, the US, France and elsewhere who have made momentous decisions on our behalf. We cannot abdicate responsibility for that.

And we might also accept that peace for most nations after the 20th century’s largest conflicts came at a future price for some other countries. Particularly those in the heart of the Eastern Mediterranean. Here, Canadian politician Michael Ignatieff offers a clue to the cause, saying: ‘’Both Iraq and Syria are a fissile mixture of ethnicities and religions thrown together after Versailles by departing French and British imperialists and only kept together by Baathist tyranny and violence.’’

We could even wonder if, by dividing up the Middle East in the 1940s and 1950s, we planted the seeds for what is happening today.

The inevitable corollary is that we are experiencing some sort of physical manifestation now of karma. With the arrival of the war, so we see the homeless and desperate migrants on our shores and into our backyards.

Of course, there will be many reasons why wars and conflicts develop in certain ways and at precise moments in time, which historians will debate for decades to come. But when we watch the news, and see human suffering, we should be wary of thinking it is not our concern. The past will always catch up with us.

As author David Mitchell says: “Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”

Bruno Wang, founder of the Pureland Foundation