What can I do?

You hear a lot about Syria today – about the awful conflict and war that is already raging for several years. Every time I hear something on the news about Syria it grips my heart. How can it be, that it gets worse and worse? Why isn’t it changing for the good? I sit here in Germany where my life is safe and everything is fine – like a nice and warm home. But then I see horrible pictures of pain and death, happening somewhere far away – and the picture of the nice home starts to crumble when it hits the reality of this world, it gets a shallow taste. Every time I think about it, I feel the urge to do something, to change things for the good! It can’t be that the only option I have is to sit in front of the TV and to feel pity for the people I see on the news.

But what can I do? I’m just a 26-year-old student who has not the experience and knowledge to change anything – that makes me feel so powerless and resigning. To feel this burning fire inside of me, that consumes me and pushes me to do something! But on the outside this paralyzing inability – not knowing how to make a step forward at all. Some months ago I was sitting in a discourse about the refugee crisis. One man stood up and was complaining about all these people coming to Germany: “Why do we have to take all these problems and efforts on our shoulders? We are not responsible for the wars and cruelties that are happening in Syria and all the others places in the world!”

This made me think. Who is responsible? The accusing fingers point in different directions. Is it Assad? The various rebel groups? ISIS? Is it the West that made so many mistakes in the past with their Middle East policies? The correlations are complicated and diffuse – impossible for me to decide, it is too muddled. And what would it change if I knew who is responsible? Would I have to wait for this person to change the situation, because HE/SHE is responsible and not ME? I do not feel responsible for the past that happened, that has led to this cruel present. I was too young to change anything. But what about the future? I don’t feel responsible for it as if everything depends on me and my decisions. But I feel the urge to take responsibility for it and do my part. Not because I have to, but because it feels like the right thing to do.

Josef Joffe wrote in a newspaper article: “Aleppo will always remain a disgrace, just like Biafra and Rwanda.”[1] I wasn’t born yet when the tragedy happened in Biafra. And I was 4 years old when the cruelties in Rwanda happened. I couldn’t do anything about that. But what about today? About Syria and this present catastrophe? Am I still too young to do anything? Too inexperienced? This breaks my heart. How can it be that the only option for me is to sit here and watch?

Bonhoeffer wrote in one of his papers from prison: “Christ, so the Scriptures tell us. Bore the sufferings of all humanity in his own body as if they were his own – a thought beyond our comprehension – accepting them of his own free will. We are certainly not Christ; we are not called on to redeem the world by our own deeds and sufferings, and we need not try to assume such an impossible burden. We are not lords, but instruments in the hand of the Lord of history and we can share in other people’s sufferings only to a very limited degree. We are not Christ, but if we want to be Christians, we must have some share in Christ’s large-heartedness by acting with responsibility and in freedom when the hour of danger comes and by showing a real compassion that springs, not from fear, but from the liberating and redeeming love of Christ for all who suffer. Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behaviour. Christians are called to compassion and action, not in the first place by their own sufferings, but by the sufferings of their brothers and sisters.”[2]

I don’t want to be mere waiting and looking. I prefer to go there and help! To show compassion and action! But how? Would I really make a difference? I want to be an instrument in God’s loving hand as He is bringing peace and reconciliation to this world – and to Syria as part of it. I want to participate in Christ’s large-heartedness! The message seems to be so clear. And still I’m standing here, not knowing what to do. Consumed by this fire raging in my heart. Only hoping and praying for God’s grace. That He might change the things I can’t. Praying that He might show me the way to go, to overcome this paralyzing inability – by His grace and power.

Still standing here without the right answers.

By Sergej Kiel, Intern Micah Global

[1] Free translation. For the original in German see ZEIT (41/16). [2] Translation: Letters and Papers from Prison, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Volume 8, J.W. de Gruchy (ed.), Minneapolis; quoted from Who Am I?: Bonhoeffer’s Theology through his Poetry, B. Wannenwetsch (ed.), London 2009, 173. For the original in German see Widerstand und Ergebung, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Werke, Volume 8, E. Bethge (ed.), Gütersloh 1998, 33f.


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