As I sit down to write this appeal, Russians are dropping cluster bombs on the people of the city of Aleppo in Northern Syria. At least nine children, and probably many more, are dead. Cluster munitions, banned under international law, are like land mines dropped from the sky that rupture when exploded into hundreds of tiny bomblets. Cluster munitions are largely anti-personnel weapons whose intent is to inflict as much bodily harm as is possible; these weapons are a particular threat to so-called “soft targets” — civilians who fall prey to the wide area of effect of these bombs and their long-lasting presence.
In Washington, the most powerful people in the world sit on their hands as hundreds of innocent men, women, and children die daily. In spite of the famous “red line” with respect to chemical weapons in Syria, they have done little or nothing to stop the government of Syria, with the support of its famous ally Vladimir Putin, from decimating the Syrian people with the most advanced weapons of modern warfare. In today’s New York Times, columnist Roger Cohen called Syria “the Obama administration’s shame, a debacle of such dimensions that it may overshadow the president’s domestic achievements.” In Congress, politicians are falling all over themselves to assure that we take comprehensive steps to limit Syrian refugees from entering the United States while invariably turning a blind eye to the dire situation that creates these refugees. Half of these refugees are under the age of eighteen.
And as tragic as this situation is, there are even more dire circumstances. The refugees from this destruction, as well as other civilians in Syria, are caught between the brutal assault of the Russian and Iranian backed Assad forces and the barbaric inhumanity of the terrorist group Daesh as they struggle for territory in Syria. In addition, the Western backed Arabic and Kurdish forces push forward assisting antigovernment rebels in their fight with both Assad and Daesh. Caught in the middle of this maelstrom are the common people of Syria — men, women, and children whose only crime is the desire for freedom and democracy and/or their dire need to escape from conditions almost unparalleled since the end of the Second World War. In towns such as Madaya, al-Fouaa, and Kefraya, starvation has become a weapon of war where as many as two million children face famine at the hands of internecine warfare and international military intervention. In the face of such odds, we wonder what we – as individuals – can do.
For five years, a small group the students at Stokes Early College and now South Stokes High School have watched these crises unfold. When the rebellion against Assad first occurred in 2011, they held a candlelight vigil and urged the world to pay attention to the people of Syria and their simple demands for the kind of freedom and democracy that many of us in the United States take from granted. They distinctly remember a year later when student Sarah Strother spoke passionately and eloquently at a student led teach-in about the situation in Syria and what we, as Americans, could do to assist in their struggle. Several Christmases ago, they held a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders at Danbury Community Church and raised several hundred dollars for the charity and its medial relief program in Syria. These events are not just fundraisers for a worthwhile organization, i.e. the Nobel Prize winning Doctors Without Borders; these are events that empower students to understand that while the world may seem unable to unwilling to solve these conflicts — that they, through their concern and involvement, can actually make a difference in the world.
And we are at it again. On Friday, February 19th from 4:30 – 8:00 at the Roll-R-King skating rink in King, N.C., we will be hosting “SK8 Against H8.” Tickets for “SK8 Against H8” will be ten dollars and the proceeds from the event will go towards Doctors Without Borders campaign to provide medical relief and assistance to those facing starvation and devastation at the hands of the military conflict in Syria. For your ten dollar admission, you will be entertained by the outstanding musical talents of Stokes County’s most famous group The Starcatchers, the catchy tunesmith Mason Via, Aili Harris and Skylar Schell, Missy Poff, and whoever else we can wrangle up. And from six to eight, you can skate to your heart’s content and enjoy the company of some of the finest young people in Stokes County. And, maybe, just maybe…we can change the world even if just for a little bit. That would be a good thing.
Come out and join us. “SK8 against H8” — 4:30 – 8:00 p.m. — Friday February 19th, Roll-R-King Skating Rink, 1080 S Old US-52, King, North Carolina 27021.