Healing in the Midst of War

A month ago a 71-year old surgeon from France left his City of Lights and went to Homs, Syria. There in a makeshift operating room in a house that had been abandoned, with sporadic electricity and none of the fine surgical equipment that allows him and his patients to flourish in France, he operated on 89 people, 80 of whom survived. It is an amazing story.

I’ve stayed away from the topic of Syria – not because I want to, or because I think it’s right to avoid, but because every time I think about it I feel physically sick and a paralysis sets in. In a world where we are hesitant to use the word sin, preferring instead the less damaging words of “dysfunction”, “addiction”, or  “self-defeating behavior” are we not confronted by sin, by pure evil as we look at what is happening in Syria? Would we not be foolish to surmise that Bashar Al-Assad, president of Syria, is doing what he is doing to his own citizens because he is “emotionally impaired”?

But today we have a story of redemption and sacrifice. I am struck by real-life heroes that do their part, those that carry out acts that reflect a God who heals and redeems, as well as the real-life heroes that are survivors and victims of the atrocities. I am specifically drawn to the story of  this man.

The surgeon is a Dr. Jacques Bérès, one of the founders of Doctors Without Borders in the early seventies, and then another organization, Doctors of the World, in 1980. He is familiar with war zones, having spent much of his career helping from Saigon to Sierra Leone. In his picture he has the look of a benign grandfather, but the story belies that and you are left with a picture of compassion and courage; a man with a sense of purpose who doesn’t shy away from fulfilling that purpose. The worst of conditions awaited him in Syria. He was smuggled in through the Lebanese border with medical equipment, stopping on the way in another city to aid a Syrian physician.  When he finally reached Homs and set up the temporary hospital, he treated war wounds of all kinds, some that will haunt him forever. Men, women, and children, the future of Syria, were treated from damage caused by war wounds – I think we call this “civilian casualties”, a nice, sanitary name.

In a radio interview in Paris on return from Syria he says this: “I was sad… I saw useless suffering, cruelty, meanness, the suffering of children, of families.” He used this sadness to energize a gift, to be a person who brought healing in the midst of war. A person whose countenance of “quiet energy and purpose” affected all those who were working with him.

I’ve heard it said that character during crisis doesn’t suddenly emerge, but is a product of daily decision-making when there is no crisis. If so then that is my challenge – to daily make choices that count. To have it said that in a crisis I worked with a “quiet energy and purpose” is the height of compliments; to be a healer in the midst of war like Dr. Bérès.

We all have stories of hope in the midst of tragedy, healing in the midst of war. Would love to hear some of yours through the comments! 

12 thoughts on “Healing in the Midst of War

  1. Marilyn, I wrote a different perspective on the war after a conversation with a Syrian Christian. You won’t find it encouraging, but you may find it interesting. whetherhereorthere.wordpress.com/ (This is Tiffany, Robynn’s friend, by the way. I use a pen name for my blog)


    1. I’m so glad you commented Tiffany – I just went to your post. Really well done and while troubling, that has certainly been our reality at different points living overseas. For instance – human rights – as long as the human rights abuses were against Christians it was a problem; when the abuses were against Muslims – it was what they deserved. I thought you did an excellent job linking what has happened historically with what is going on now. It is so troubling – I almost had to pull over a couple of weeks ago as I heard about a woman being raped 50 times by soldiers of the regime. Delighted that you commented so I can go back and read a bunch of your posts – sounds like we have many of the same interests.


  2. Tried to leave a comment this morning but it would not let me :-(. Thank you for reminding me to pray on behalf of Syria. We know many here who longed to return home last summer to family and loved ones, but with the conflict have postponed that dream. We can get so caught up in our own “small world” and forget to be an agent of healing and change in the Lord’s hands. Thank you for sharing something good in the midst of great sorrow and grief and the atrocities. I appreciate you opening my eyes once again.


    1. Actually a couple of people told me the same thing about trying to leave comments this morning – so sorry about that. Stories like the one of the surgeon I find convicting and make me think about my role in this world.


  3. When I read the title of this post I was like, “YES!” but when I read the post, wow… you’re right on. Thanks for mentioning Syria. For encouraging us to live lives of purpose, bringing healing and LIFE to the world. Good post, as usual!


    1. Thanks as always for your deep encouragement. I have wanted to do a longer post but really am paralyzed when I continue to hear of the atrocities – far beyond war wounds. This story felt so hopeful in the midst of that. Also I want to thank you because you are the one that keeps me praying for this situation.


  4. I have lived a sheltered life here in the Midwestern US. I do not watch much television as I find it full of chaos, drama and negativity. I read these stories and my heart weeps. We are all capable of being healers… I love hearing these positive stories.


    1. When I hear stories like the one I relayed I feel sheltered as well! And I hate the television news- never watch it preferring radio or written. But what you said is so true – we are all capable of being healers. You show that everyday in your world. I was thinking about you the other day while reading a book – the first chapter was called “Paying attention” with the premise of how much of God we see as we look at the order of nature.


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