Our Aleppo Moment: Three ways to fight our short attention spansDecember 20, 2016
Five months ago— five months— the image of a young boy pulled from a bombed building in Syria horrified the world. His name is Omran Daqneesh. He is 5. His home city of Aleppo has been under siege for four years.
I considered that our collective Aleppo moment. When the conflict became crystallized in the form of a little boy stunned and pulled from the rubble of what used to be his house and city.
What you need to know now:
Five months later, Aleppo has captured the attention of the world again. Through the power of social media, we can read, see and hear firsthand the stories of families pleading with the world to intervene on their behalf.
Dear world, there’s intense bombing right now. Why are you silent? Why? Why? Why? Fear is killing me & my kids. – Fatemah #Aleppo
— Bana Alabed (@AlabedBana) December 14, 2016
On the world stage, there has recently been some movement. US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power addressed leaders at the Security Council:
“Aleppo will join the ranks of those events in world history that define modern evil, that stain our conscience decades later. Halabja, Rwanda, Srebrenica, and, now, Aleppo.”
After months of negotiations, a ceasefire may finally hold long enough to evacuate people to safety. The UN announced yesterday it will send monitors to the city to ensure people are safely evacuated, but the story of Syria and Aleppo is far from over.
Yet here at home, our attention span is short. This is our challenge. Particularly in this season, as many of us prepare for Christmas with friends and family, it will be easy to let the realities of what is happening thousands of miles away slip off our consciousness and our conscience. We need a way to hold in our hearts and minds both the joy of Christmas and the reality of Sin which Christ comes to confront.
We spoke with ERLC’s Travis Wussow on how we can respond when the news is filled with reports of wars, rumors of wars, terrorism and hate.
Here are three ways to fight the temptation to put it all out of our mind:
1. Allow God to move your heart
In the age of social media, we have exposure to the human side of international events like no other time in history. But, by the same measure, we can just as easily ignore it.
We also have unprecedented power to choose our news in who we follow.
Wussow challenges us to consider that: “Those human moments [like Alebed Bana’s tweets above] connect us those who are really suffering.” We have to know about it. Take the time to read about the experience of those half a world away. Read the international news, not just the front page. Make the mental room for God to move you as you listen and seek to understand what it’s like to be human in the midst of Man’s inhumanity to Man.
2. Pray through the headlines
As Christians, we can do more than just be informed. We can pray. We cannot bear the world nor its sin but we can bring those burdens and the people involved to the One who has the power to intervene.
We encourage you to check our Must Read Monday feature on the blog every week on stories we are reading and how the Christian worldview informs our understanding of them. Pray through the headlines and pray through your social media feed. Have the eyes and ears and heart of God on the people involved and the issues raised.
3. Invest our resources
Travis acknowledges, “The need is paralyzing for a lot of us because we don’t even know what to do. What I would commend as you are reading the news, pay attention to the areas where your heart seems to be stirred and invest there. Look for organizations doing great work there.”
Apathy is the enemy of Christian action. Empathy is the heart of Christ for the world that He so loves. So, if you want to guard against apathy, invest your heart. And where does Jesus say your heart is? Wherever you put your money.
Part of the calling of the Christian life is to be faithful with what we have, little or big. As we answer the calling to practice true religion which James, the brother of Jesus, defines as including looking after orphans and widows in their distress, we also remember the value ascribed by Christ to the offering of the widow’s mite. As we survey the overwhelming face of human need around the world we also remember what Jesus can do when the seemingly insufficient offering of five loaves and two fish is placed in His hands. Matthew tells that more than 9000 people ate to their fill and the disciples collected twelve baskets of leftovers.
God’s arm is not too short to save and God has chosen to work through the human agency of Christ’s people in the world today to demonstrate the all sufficient nature of His grace.
As Wussow shared with us, “It is important for us to engage, to engage in prayer and to pay attention to the issues the Lord seems to be bringing to our attention and to our lives. We also have to recognize we are a vapor. All we are called to be is faithful to the things the Lord has called us and to leave the rest to Him.”