A Humanitarian’s View on ISIS and Volunteering in Syria

Definition of humanitarian:

  1. concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare.
    “groups sending humanitarian aid”
    synonyms: compassionate; humane

A couple days ago, someone asked me if I was still considering the Peace Corp. After explaining to him that things took a turn and I’m now at a different road in my life, I said I would love to still volunteer somewhere. He said Syria needed “some peace-keeping.” I said, “I thought about volunteering there, but my mom would be pissed.” (I can already hear you saying “what?!” as your eyes bug out of your head.) She and I have already had this discussion before. My stepdad was mildly supportive, but my mom was just worried about the tiny little detail of her only daughter willingly choosing to be sent into a war zone.

I know what you’re thinking: “What person in their right mind would choose to go over to Syria, one of the most dangerous places in the world right now, especially considering everything with ISIS?” And that’s basically the reaction I got from this someone. He had a very choice word for me, which I won’t include here, and added that the only way he would ever go to Syria is with guns and ammo. My response? “I’m so happy the whole world doesn’t feel the way you do.”

He went on to tell me I needed to “hit the books” on ISIS, because clearly I must’ve seemed like I didn’t realize they don’t care about anything except brutally killing innocent people. I think you can sort of see where I’m going with this blog. My view on war and stereotyping other countries has always been, just because you have a problem with their army or war or whatever, that doesn’t mean the rest of that country’s people feel the same way. I’ve said it before in another blog: don’t judge an entire country on the actions and opinions of one group of really screwed up people. That’s not fair in any way and, last time I checked, Americans were all for fairness and equality. Why don’t we start acting like it.

Children in the midst of the rubble caused by the war in Syria

Children in the midst of the rubble caused by the war in Syria

I get so riled up when I hear others say they want to take their guns to the Middle East and “show them who’s boss,” etc. And even more riled up when they say the only reason to go to an unsafe region in the world is for a “military facet.” Really? Really?!

To me, the fact that these unsafe regions are usually dominated by unreasonably violent military members is all the more reason for humanitarians. It’s basically their reason for existing. And, by the way, it’s the same kind of people who go into those areas as the ones who volunteer for natural disasters in America. Thank god for people like that. I don’t understand why Syria should be any different. Africa also has active war zones, but you still see aid being sent in, along with people to give that aid out. Anyone else would say, “OK, Africa, war zone, Ebola, corruption, poverty….nope!” Why do we even bother calling ourselves human if we aren’t going to act like it? Part of being human is having compassion for all beings, rich and poor alike, no matter what part of the world they’re in. Wasn’t it Mother Teresa who said, “If you can and are willing to help others, help them.” In some cases, not doing something because it’s unsafe is the appropriate response. In others, where it could save lives, it’s necessary. At least I believe so. What would’ve happened if no one showed for The Lost Boys in Sudan (whom I previously wrote about)? Or what about Rwanda? Or Haiti? The Congo? Egypt? Americans send aid. It’s what we do. We can help and we’re willing, so we do. Just today the U.S. and Turkey have agreed to help train Syrian rebels to fight ISIS. Isn’t that helping? How is that different than just going over there and volunteering? I’m picturing all those innocent families and children who are in the midst of all this chaos. When you think, “I’m gonna take my guns over there and kill them all,” or “Who would want to go over there?”, those are the people you should remember. They’re in the middle of a heart surrounded by violence they didn’t ask for. Besides, if you feel that strongly that you don’t want to go over there, imagine how the innocents feel. It’s a sickening and backwards thought that you wouldn’t support sending aid in to help those stuck in a country you wouldn’t want to go to.

I’m not saying every single person should or is able to physically volunteer in unsafe places like Syria, Somalia, etc. I’m simply saying reserve the judgment for the courts.

Everyone has the right to say no to going overseas – duh – but don’t knock those who do. What if you needed that aid? Wouldn’t you want others to help?


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