It was an image that triggered great sympathy: a four year old Syrian boy found wandering in the desert alone, clutching a plastic bag with his few positions. The young boy had become separated from a larger group, and was not all alone as the image was later used to depict. In a mass crossing of refugees he had become separated from others, an issue for the weak, old and children when mass crossings happen.
The stark reality is, however, that this is about a crisis involving children who are being affected every day.
According to the UN, more than a million children have fled their homes because of the war in Syria, mostly ending up in vast refugee camps in neighbouring Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. Many more are displaced within Syria itself.
Most children are within large family groups, but some – usually teenagers – have crossed borders unaccompanied by any adults. Many are traumatised by witnessing death and destruction, some are injured, ill or malnourished, and many have not attended school for months or years.
Unicef, the UN’s agency for children, estimates that “more than five million are threatened by the brutal conflict, soon entering its fourth year”.
Jesus welcomed children, used them as examples of how we should live, and embraced them into a place of safety and protection. Cry out to God for children who are caught up in this long and ongoing civil war.