Over the past week, a single image of a drowned child went viral. Aylan Kurdi who, along with his mother and brother, drowned after attempting to reach Europe to escape persecution is one of almost 60 million people displaced by conflict, persecution and war.
Among that crowd, this image of Aylan has shaken many in Australia, being shown in candle-light vigils, being mentioned in Parliament, and contributing to an upsurge in a compassion and generosity in our public discourse about humans and about aid that we were beginning to think lost.
We believe this tragic image and the fate of one small child can provide a turning point to discuss how we should act as fellow humans, why we should act as Christians and what we should do as global citizens. Responding with more compassion and practical support for humans and asylum-seekers is clearly part of what must happen. We should also increase humanitarian and other forms of aid which help those who have been displaced, and can work to reduce the pressures of conflict and violence.
Last century, the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas wrote about the shaking and shocking moment that we gaze into the face of another. Recognising that person as an other, but also seeing in them, in all their uniqueness and difference, our God-given obligation to take responsibility for caring for that other (Genesis 4:9) who, like me, is one made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26).
So, how are we living up to this obligation?
The answer of course is that not only can we do more, but we must do more. We join with others through the Campaign for Australian Aid, to support the joint effort of Save the Children, Oxfam and World Vision for a petition which calls on our government to increase its support for those who are in need, lift our commitment for aid and increase diplomatic efforts for a peaceful end to the conflict in Syria.
The petition which is run by Save the Children can be found at http://syriacrisis.com.au/
May we remember, at this time, the tragic death of one child. May we remember, at this time, the tragic flight of tens of millions of people fleeing terror and death. May we remember, at this time, God’s call for us to turn our own hearts, our conversations, and our actions, towards justice and peace, faith and steadfast love.
Benn Banasik is Micah Australia's Political Engagement Coordinator.