For most of us here, war is a nightmare we only experience through print and the media. In other parts of the world, war is a nightmare people are forced to live in against their will. They can’t press pause on the horrific events playing out in their lives the way we can pause a television programme. There are no breaks, no “time-outs” where they can take a breather and gather their thoughts on what they’re going through. War is like a fast-moving locomotive; if you happen to be standing on the tracks with no way of getting away from it, you have no choice but to face what’s coming until it passes by.
In a war-torn country, it takes a lot of strength to prioritize things like education. It’s difficult enough to manage your own survival in the midst of the ongoing strife. With bombs and ammunition raining down around you, the subject of books and reading lie far away from your foremost thoughts. The story of Malala Yousafzai– notably what she went through for her education would bring tears to anybody’s eyes. She was merely 14 years old when she was shot in the head for fighting for the right to a proper education. One can only imagine the horrors children her age (and quite possibly younger) had to face just so they can attend school. This is not just something that is happening in one location. Horrifyingly, it is a common and ongoing plight in various countries around the world.
The following are some words taken from the children of Syria, victims of a terrifying ordeal that has been going on since 2011 :
“You can’t imagine what I’ve seen. What Syria has seen…Please help us. I am asking people around the world who can, please help us,” Ali, 12 years old
“I ask the leaders all around the world to save the children in Syria, save them from all the shelling. Children need medicine. We need clothes, and food. Every child should play and be happy. I am worried about the future. What will happen to us? Where will we go?” Hassan, 14 years old
“Some men came to our village. I tried to escape, but they took me to jail. Except it wasn’t a jail– it was my old school. It’s ironic– they took me there to torture me, in the same place I used to go to school to learn. They had taken over the school and made it into a torture centre.” Khalid, 15 years old
Those are quotes from 3 children– only 3 out of about 3.3 million children living in the midst of the crisis, cut off completely from education. Who knows how many more children there are living through the savagery? How many more are unaccounted for? What has happened since those quotes were recorded? The extent of our knowledge on their plight only goes as far as the limits set by our reading materials. We are not living in their nightmare. What we have imagined might not even begin to touch the reality of their situation.
For the past four years, the Syrian children have been caught in the middle of a raging storm of barrel bombs, chemical warfare, siege, starvation, mass torture and who knows what else. With all of that going on in their lives, and their own survival at stake, is there even a time and place for them to manage their education? Most of them are stranded and displaced from their families and their homes. Unlike us, there is barely anyone to take them by the hand and guide them through life. The situation is especially sad for the younger ones, because having not lived for very long before the crisis began, all they know is what they’re going through and nothing much else. Their future is bleak, and will remain that way for as long as the crisis is in effect.
A recent report by the Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights says the Israeli army has detained 740 Palestinian minors– some as young as 8– in the Occupied West Bank during the first two months of 2014. That is only within TWO months. Most of the charges held against these children are linked to throwing stones or being active in demonstrations. These children aren’t deliberately indulging in what we might deem delinquent behavior for the fun of it, they are fighting for the rights to a better life and future.
In our country, we have learning opportunities in spades. We do not have to fight for the rights to a proper education. Our children are able to develop and learn with ease, unburdened with the monstrosities children trapped in battle zones are faced with. We live in comfortable homes, unfettered with the prospect or war-inflicted ordeals like starvation. It is our duty to send our help to these children and their families, for they are not in a position where they can help themselves.
That is the reason behind Genius Aulad’s READING MISSION FOR SYRIA-PALESTINE, which will commence on the 27th of March till the 9th of April 2014. We aim to spread and instill the habit of reading among the children of the world. We believe that no child should be deprived of the ability to read and learn. On our mission, we will be sharing our Starter Words Reading Series among the children of Palestine and Syrian camps in Jordan. This mission is a joint programme with Islamic Relief Malaysia and TV3. We hope that you can spare us a du’a so we will have a safe return from our journey, InsyaAllah.
The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “The best gift that a father can bestow upon his son is to arrange good education and training for him.” [Mishkat]
What of the children who have no one to guide them in these trying times? As brothers and sisters in Islam, it is our duty to provide our troubled fellow Muslims with the help that they need. Let’s us pray for the plight of our Muslim brothers and sisters in distress to end. Amiin.