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!
- French Surgeon, 71, Saves Lives in Syria
- Syrian Expatriates Organization Condemns the Appalling Massacre in Homs-Syria And Urges the UN For immediate Plan for Civilian Protection (prweb.com)
- Syrian killings spark plea for intervention (smh.com.au)
- Assad’s troops plant landmines on border to stop refugees fleeing… as it’s confirmed Syria WILL compete at 2012 Olympics (dailymail.co.uk)