On Syria and the Virtues of Hope and Charity
Images of drowned children, news of chemical bombs, and devastating stories about refugees flood our media with news of the Syrian civil war. Many Christians have vocalized the same repeated response: surely these are the end times.
I do not know if these are the end times of not; none of us know, only the Father. However, I firmly believe the admission that these clearly must be the end times is a cop-out to dealing with conflicts, both in Syrian and throughout the world. To believe that these are the end times creates a sense that there is nothing we can do and can foster apathy when the virtues of hope and charity are needed the most.
Think about it: the belief that these are the end times can lead to a feeling of helplessness. If we truly were to believe that Jesus was coming, that these events were not the course of human evil, the Fall, and sin, then what could we really do about them? Some may fear they are interfering with God’s plan. Others may see aid or interference as irrelevant—what is the point, after all, if the end will soon come?
These very well may be the end times, but they very well may not be. Human history is full of devastation, civil wars, genocide, drought, famine, plague, world wars, and the most unimaginable evils, and yet the world still continued. Why is the extreme of a “surely these are the end times” mindset problematic?
It forgets our past.
In his Confessions, Saint Augustine of Hippo reflects upon the role of memory in the Christian moral life. Memory allows us to think about, reflect on, and understand the world around us. Without an understanding of our past, then, we cannot fully understand the events currently occurring in our world right now. Think of the Armenian genocide, which claimed the lives of 75% of the Armenian population in 1915. From those past events, we can learn of possible solutions, avoid mistakes we previously made, and gain historical perspective that can grant us hope in even the darkest of hours.
It removes our duty to help.
The Syrian refugees are our brothers and sisters in Christ. By this communion and the virtue of charity, we are called to help them, even in the smallest of ways. If we convince ourselves that the end is soon coming, it becomes more difficult to envision a future for these people. Why should they worry about homes, citizenship, and survival when Jesus will soon return? Christ calls us to feed the hungry and house the refugee. Whether Syria is indeed an apocalyptic showdown or another tragedy that will scar human history, our duty to help is not negated. For those of us removed by distance from the situation, prayer is one of the best ways to help. Lord, have mercy on the Syrians.
It detriments our virtue of hope.
I believe that fear is one of the reasons many Christians proclaim times like these to be the end times. Wars are terrifying. We see the images of suffering from the front lines and wonder, why does this happen? How can it ever get any better? But we must hold firm to hope in Christ; not just hope in his heavenly kingdom, but hope in the kingdom of God which is here and now. Christ did not abandon us when he ascended into heaven; he sent us the Holy Spirit to not only guide us in our faith, but to help us bring forth a better world.
How can you help?
First off, you can pray for the refugees and those housing them. If you are looking to donate, Catholic Relief Services is one of the most reliable charities, with 92% of their donations going directly to the programs. Finally, you remember, share, raise awareness, and not give up hope.