He’s in a red shirt and blue shorts, his little body still chubby with the best kind of toddler fat. He has his shoes on, their brown soles pointed toward the camera. This strikes me as odd — because he’s at the edge of the water on a beach. The waves care not that he is there, they come and go at nature’s will.
The light goes on in the back of my brain, and I slowly shake my head, willing the reality of the image away. I suddenly get it. This little boy, who looks to be barely three, is dead. He died and his body is there on the beach. There are no parents to rescue him. They too are dead.
The story comes out in bits and pieces: Twelve refugees, thought to be Syrian, drown when their boat sinks off the coast of a Greek Island. Their bodies wash ashore in a Turkish resort town. That’s when this toddler is found. Too late.
Turkish media identified the toddler – he has a name. His name is Aylan Kurdi, from a Kurdish region of Syria. It is thought that his five year old brother died on the boat as well.
Of the 11 million that have died or fled their homes from Syria, some stories stand out. Just as Christina became the iconic story of the tragedy of Qaraqosh, so will this baby boy become the image and story of the refugee crisis.
The Associated Press gives us a pictorial look into the crisis as they show a 24-hour migration across Europe.
What can we do? How can we urge governments and policy makers to act? How can we sit back, while a little child lays, dead on the beach?
We are a world asleep, a world that is short sighted, a world that honestly believes someone else will fill in the gap.
Will a dead toddler wake a sleeping world?
What if we just showed up? What if, when we see people who are desperate, we put aside all our reservations and took the risk of giving, caring, loving?
In truth, my faith demands that I respond! Throughout the Holy Scriptures, I read commands to care, to help, to offer refuge.
The stranger did not lodge in the street: but I opened my doors to the traveler*
Truth is – I have no answers except one. And that is prayer that the warm fire of the Holy Spirit will wake us, sustain us, and give us grace and desire to act.
*Job 31 v 32 KJV