independent

Friday 20 September 2019

World is sitting on its hands over Syria

The way I see it

FR BRIAN WHELAN

THERE HAVE been a few ' big' happenings on the front pages in the past week or so. We've had Euro 2012, and the sad demise of the Irish soccer team at the hands of a far superior Spanish team, not to mention Croatia, and indeed those Italians.

We've also had the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, a celebration of faith, heritage and community, which saw a near-capacity attendance at Croke Park for the closing Mass.

We've witnessed the pillorying of the Wexford TD Mick Wallace for his misadventures with the Collector General, and the subsequent shadow-boxing among fellow-Independent ' Technical Group' TDs , and the Dail Committee that may or may not decide to censure him.

And then we've had the annual State examinations, the Leaving Cert and the Junior Cert, and as usual at this time of year there's much talk about reforming the ' points-system' and overhauling how we effect education in this country. And we've been bored to the point of disinterested apathy at the ongoing Euro fiscal crisis, at this stage it's next to impossible to understand what's going on with bondholders, the Greeks, the Bundestag and the Taoiseach.

Each of these different topics has animated its own 'interested-parties' - the people directly involved, or those who are passionate about the particular topic, have voiced their opinions and feelings.

One thing that each of these has in common though, is the sense of 'we're all in this together' (with the exception of Mick Wallace perhaps). The Euros, the IEC, the State exams, and the Economy, all evoke a community spirit that sometimes lies like a dormant seed deep beneath the soil, until such events as interests us come around. Only then are we interested and concerned, because only then are we involved and affected.

There is a bigger story in the news these days also which isn't receiving the attention it deserves on our front pages however. And that is the trouble in Syria. I mentioned Syria in this column last week, and I'm back on the topic once again for the simple reason that I believe the situation there is much worse than we're being told.

Going by the news reports, it seems to be the case that Syria is descending rapidly into civil war - although if we were being told the honest truth, it's probably been that case for some time now. The fact is though, that when it comes to Syria, we're not "all in this together". The international community, in other words those who have the power and ability to do something about this conflict, seem to be sitting on their hands.

The U.N. envoy, Kofi Annan, who came up with a peace plan for the Syrian Crisis, has all but admitted that his endeavours have been useless. The Annan plan was seen as the last chance to prevent all-out civil war - all other diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the violence remain deadlocked, with Russia and Iran refusing to countenance any talk of regime change. Ultimately it begs the question of whether or not military intervention is inevitable, as it was in Egypt.

The United States, and particularly Barack Obama, is more intent on finishing wars than starting new ones, but the alternative - an accelerating slide into brutal and increasingly sectarian carnage and disintegration - is hardly an attractive prospect for any of the outside powers, so it's not completely impossible that there might be some movement yet.

The Gospel on Sunday last, was the parable of the mustard seed. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches. The symbolism here is that from the smallest of beginnings, big things can happen.

The 'Arab Spring' from where this Syrian conflict had its inspiration, started as a very small seed, a ripple that swept like a mighty wave across the North of Africa. Right now we need a new seed, the resolve to put an end to the suffering and brutality that is destroying a people. If we are truly 'all in this together' then the international community needs to nurture the seed of justice and right and put an end to this bloody mayhem.

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