Appropriately disturbed and loving my distant Aleppo neighbor

Along with many people far and near, I have been terribly disturbed by images from the Syrian war recently. Appropriately disturbed.

Early last week, I felt physically ill while I watched a news story about doctors and hospitals being targeted by airstrikes.

Then, just a few days later, the images of Omran Daqneesh, the five year-old-boy who sat dazed and bloody in an ambulance in Aleppo, stirred compassion, outrage and prayers from many of us.

Here is the disturbing video of Omran being rescued by aid workers:

Since the video and pictures of his rescue went viral Omran’s older brother Ali–along with at least 148 other chilldren of Aleppo just this month–died.

Thousands of miles are between me and the people suffering in Syria. Entering into their experiences through the news, images, and videos is tough. Really though, the turmoil that it surfaces in me is miniscule compared to what makes up their daily life.  

Yet, I am tempted to turn away from loving my neighbor. The challenging truth of suffering and injustice could spiral me into a state of helplessness. What can I do? I am too distant from the pain to be able to help rescue people or offer comfort, food or water. I feel like I have no power or wealth to end the conflict. I could resign, throw my hands up, “I can’t keep up! I can’t handle it!”

I am tempted to turn away from the Gospel of love and mercy, to reject hope and leave it behind me, ignore the suffering of my distant neighbors, and return to enjoying the comforts of my safe and privileged life.

War is ugly and can bring out the worst in us.

Yes, war is ugly, but discipleship necessary.

When it comes to loving our neighbors thousands of miles away, solidarity becomes a demanding spiritual practice. We unite in prayer, enter into relationship, and respond with compassionate actions. We allow ourselves to be disturbed and uncomfortable while we pray and and act, because we know that others are very, very uncomfortable.

Although ending war may be complex and difficult, living the Gospel is really quite simple: every choice is guided by sacrificial love.

So let us pray!

For all the children like Omran and Ali, the children living and dying in war, let us pray. For an end to war and conversion of hearts, let us pray. For peace and an increase of hope among us, let us pray:

A Prayer For The People Of Syria

Almighty eternal God, source of all compassion,

the promise of your mercy and saving help fills our hearts with hope.
Hear the cries of the people of Syria;
bring healing to those suffering from the violence,
and comfort to those mourning the dead.
Empower and encourage Syria’s neighbors 
in their care and welcome for refugees.
Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms,
and strengthen the resolve of those committed to peace.

O God of hope and Father of mercy,
your Holy Spirit inspires us to look beyond ourselves and our own needs.
Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence 
and to seek reconciliation with enemies.
Inspire the Church around the world with compassion for the people of Syria,
and fill us with hope for a future of peace built on justice for all.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace and Light of the World,
who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

(Source: USCCB)

Let us also offer generous support to organizations who have remained present to the victims of war, even while risking their own safety and security. According to my research (and I am willing to be corrected) these are the best organizations to donate to, in order to assist the people of Aleppo in particular:


Doctors Without Borders

International Rescue Committee

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Catholic Relief Services


Let us join together and devote ourselves to protecting the life and dignity of God’s children everywhere—no matter how long or exhausting the struggle or how deep the heartache. Pope Francis’ wisdom that “our infinite sadness can only be cured by infinite love” can direct us.

No matter how awful the circumstances or how distant our neighbor, love must disturb us and we must keep being the people God has called us to be.

Prayer for Children of Syria by Bro. Mickey O'Neill Mcgrath, OSFS Source: http://bromickeymcgrath.com
“Prayer for Children of Syria” by Bro. Mickey O’Neill Mcgrath, OSFS (ource: http://bromickeymcgrath.com)



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  1. Hey Julia,
    I have been praying (on my hands and knees with my tears flooding everything around me) since August 18th (the first day when I read/saw about little Omran) for Omran. My heart simply aches and feels so very broken and sad for Omran. I haven’t kept up with the Syrian War and until Omran I didn’t even know about Aylan. I have been trying to keep up with Omran’s well being everyday since. I did read a TIME post last Friday that shares a play-by-play of the people who rescued him. The nurse that helped him in the M10 hospital has since visited him and taken him toys (and she saw him smiling). Much of what you blogged, I also too have been thinking/asking/questioning. I was so emotionally overwhelmed that I emailed my pastor about “How to Pray” and “What is My Part”. He gave great insights. Thank you for writing this! I found your blog this week as I searched “how to pray for Omran” but I am just now able to read it. I have currently been in prayer for God to send someone to teach Omran about Jesus. I pray that He sends Omran and his family someone that will teach the love, hope, and grace of Jesus to them.
    I have never been so consumed with this type of horrific sadness. It’s unimaginable to me that somehow in the world in which we live, where new inventions for making things work better and faster are made and designed daily, we can’t seem to find ways to end conflict peacefully or in nonviolent ways. I am getting the bigger picture. I have also found legitimate organizations in which to make contributions that will directly go to those helping the civilians of Aleppo (all are the ones you posted here).
    So thank you for adding to my prayer list of things that I can be praying about for Omran. Today I needed to read this. Thank you.
    So YES! I’m committed to praying (without ceasing) for Omran. If you find other ways to help or more ways in which we can pray please share. I’m desperate to help be that agent of change for him and other children who live in Aleppo. I know this isn’t the first time civilians have been affected by war (WWI and WWII, etc) but this is the first time (in my adult age) that this burden has been placed on my heart. I’m seeking His face, His will daily. I’m seeking my part.
    Thank you and keep posting!

    1. God bless you Melissa! May your servant’s heart never tire in love, prayer and devotion. It’s beautiful to hear how touched you have been by Omran’s story and the horrific truth of war. May God grant us all peace!

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