Kelly Ladd Bishop

Exploring issues of faith, culture, and spirituality with a focus on women in the church and world

Grief for Aylan Kurdi and the Syrian Refugees

The body of a two year old boy named Aylan, a refugee from Syria, washed up onto a beach in Turkey. The photo of his little body has caused international grief and outrage, as it should.

I hate everything about this story.

I hate that a little boy lost his life. I hate that his four year old brother and his mother also lost their lives. I hate that their father lives with this unbearable grief now. I hate that people are being forced to flee their homes because of terror groups waging war. I hate that human traffickers are charging huge amounts of money for perilous transport, and profiting off of the desperation and the deaths of so many. I hate that bodies are washing up on the beach like seaweed and driftwood. I hate that this little boy and his family were only three of over 2,600 people who have died in the Mediterranean this year.

But I’m thankful that this image has stirred up the conversation around this issue.

I’m thankful for the people who are working to help. I’m thankful for organizations that are sending workers and aide, and are giving us concrete ways to help when we feel so helpless.

My own toddler son saw a smiling photo of Aylan while I was reading the story. He looked at the photo and said, “I think that’s me.” I choked back tears. He ran off to play with his trucks.

That is not my son smiling in the picture, and that is not my son’s body snuggled into its final rest on the beach. But I look at those images, and I hear the pain of his mother, knowing she couldn’t save her babies in the waves. I hear the pain of his father who said, “Everything I was dreaming of is gone. I want to bury my children and sit beside them until I die.” And with every wave that hits the shore, I hear the pain of all those who gave up everything in hope of living a life free from terror.

The image of the little body that belonged to one little soul, lying in the sand, brings reality and perspective crashing down into my home. I will feed and clothe my children in our safe dry home today. We will not worry about our safety. We will not pack into a boat, taking our lives in our hands, hoping for something better. We will not cram into a train, filled to overflowing with people fleeing war and death. We will not be pulled aside by police, or sent back to live or die in the home we have left behind.

We will go to the grocery store, play, take a walk, argue over toys and bed times and who started it. And we will do these things with joy, because we can, because Aylan’s family would if they could, and because we should. But I will also hold grief in my heart for the families, children, parents, grandparents, young, old, weak, and strong being driven from their homes, and swept into the chaos and the unknown. I will lift them up in prayer, to our Lord who hears our prayers, and will one day bring an end to all grief and pain.

You hear, O LORD, the desires of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
In order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.
Psalm 10:17-18

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