Ayslan Kurdi, the little boy who drowned, makes us cry and think

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The little Syrian boy, of 3 or 4 years, lay lifeless on the beach, pale and still dressed in his little boy's clothes. He was face down, with his head turned to one side, as if he still wanted to breathe. The waves had taken pity on him and carried him to the beach. The fish, always voracious, respected him because they too felt pity for his innocence. Ayslan Kurdi is his name. His father could not hold on to them. They were dragged from his hands; and the boys were swallowed by the waters.


Dear Ayslan: you were fleeng the horrors of war in Syria, where the troops of President Assad, backed by rich Arab Emirates, sadly supported by forces of Western Europe and the United States, battle the soldiers of the cruel Islamic State, who behead those who refuse to convert to their religion. I imagine you were scared by the sound of the supersonic planes that launched murderous bombs. You did not sleep, for fear that your house would burst into flames and fly through the air.


How many times you would have heard your parents and neighbors say how dreadful are the planes that fly without a pilot, the drones. The drones persecute and chase human beings through the arid hills, and kill them. Wedding festivities, celebrated with great happiness in spite of all the horror, are also bombed, because it is imagined that there must be a terrorist among the guests.


Perhaps you did not imagine that the one who practices such barbarity and is behind all this is a young soldier, who lives in a military barrack in Texas. He sits peacefully in his living room in front of an immense TV screen. By satellite, the screen shows the battle fields of your country, Syria, or Iraq. When the young soldier becomes suspicous, with a simple touch of a bottom, he fires a weapon carried by the drone. The young soldier feels nothing. He hears nothing. He does not even feel pain. On the other side of the world, thousands of kilometers away, 30 or 40 human beings, children as yourself, fathers and mothers like yours, people who have nothing to do with the war, suddenly die. They are murdered in cold blood.  Back in Texas, the young soldier smiles, because he hit his target.


Facing the terror that comes from skies and by land, and the dread of being killed or beheaded, your parents resolved to flee. They took the whole family.  They were not thinking of looking for a job.  They just wanted not to die, or be killed. They dreamed of living in a country where they were no longer scared, a place where they could sleep without having nightmares.


And you, dear Ayslan, could happily play in the street with little playmates whose language you did not understand, but that you did not need, because you  children have a language that all little boys and girls understand.


You, Ayslan, were not able to reach such a place of peace.  But now, in spite of all the sadness we feel, we know that you, so innocent, have arrived in a paradise where you can at last play, jump and run everywhere, in the company of a God who was also a child, named Jesus, and who, in order to not leave you alone, has become once again a child. And He will play soccer with you, He will grab a kitten by the neck, and run after after a puppy; you will understand each other perfectly, as if you had been friends forever. Together you will make colored drawings, laugh at the dolls you make and share beautiful stories. And you will feel very happy.  And see, what a surprise: with you there will be your little brother who also died, and your mother will be able to embrace and kiss you, as she did so many times.


You did not die, my dear Ayslan. You have gone to live and to play in another place, a much better place. The world was not worthy of your innocence.


And now let me think by myself. What kind of a world is this, that frightens and kills the children? Why do the majority of the countries not want to receive refugees from terror and war? Are not these refugees our brothers and sisters who live in the same Common Home, the Earth? These refugees ask for nothing. They only want to live. They want to have some peace and not to see their children screaming with fear, and jumping out of bed with the thunder of the bombs. They are human beings who want to be welcomed as human beings, without threatening anyone. They only want to live in their manner of venerating God and to be clothed the way they have always clothed.


Are not two thousand years of Christianity enough to make the Europeans  minimally human, solidarian and hospitable? Ayslan, the little Syrian boy lying dead on the beach is a metaphor for the Europe of today: prostrate, lifeless, unable to cry or welcome threatened lives. Have not Europeans heard so many times that the one who welcomes the stranger or the persecuted is anonymously hosting God?


Dear Ayslan, may the image of you, washed up on the beach, elicit in us some of the humanity that always lives within us, a shred of solidarity, a tear of compassion that we cannot hold back, with our eyes tired of seeing so much useless suffering, especially of children, like yourself. Help us, we beg you, because otherwise the divine flame that flickers within us may be extinguished. And if that flame dies, we all will drown, because without love and compassion nothing will make sense in this world.


*Leonardo Boff, a Grandfather of a distant country that has already received  many persons from your country, Syria, who took pity when he saw your image on the beach and painful tears of compassion escaped from his eyes.


- Leonardo Boff, Theologian-Philosopher / Earthcharter Commission


Free translation from the Spanish by Servicios Koinonia, http://www.servicioskoinonia.org. Done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU.

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