A letter to Syria, Written by Erin Teresa Devlin, a USA Student, lives in Portland. She visited Syria once in 2006, and was so impressed with the friendliness and generosity of everyone she encountered. She loves Syrian food too, especially muhammara.
We have translated the letter into Arabic based on her request, to reach most of the Syrian people.
From a Civilian to a Civilian
As salaam alaikum
Your cries have echoed across the ocean, gathering water along the way that spills down my cheeks as I read news reports of murders and massacres, of hatred and war.
No longer can I read the stories without giving voice to the growing feeling in my heart. I want to stand by you and hold your hand, but the best that I can do today is write this letter.
The Syria I met once was full of smiles and cups of tea, of candy shops and backgammon games. Of unquestioning invitations and gifts to a stranger you didn’t even know. I cannot say that I know you, but perhaps we are acquaintances in a way. We are living in a world controlled by others, and directed by violence. You must be living with so much fear, and I am afraid for you. I don’t know if this is the beginning or the end, or if we are somewhere in the middle.
We are civilians. I am you. You are me. And we are of one humanity. Officially, civilians are those who do not give or take orders to kill others, who are not members of an armed group. Really, we are all civilians most of the time, with families and friends who share our time on this earth. We eat the same food. We catch the same colds. We tell the same jokes. We laugh. We fall in love. We get angry, but that anger doesn’t have to be directed at each other.
Perhaps we should be angry, angry at evil. Fighting other people requires weapons and attacks. Fighting evil requires love and compassion. Let’s fight evil together. You can fight it there, and I’ll fight it here. We will love the people around us so much that evil won’t have the tiniest crack to creep through. We will make peace with our enemies so deliberately that violence has no place in this world. Maybe we can learn how to achieve justice without revenge or regret. Even if you are holding a weapon, you can become a civilian by setting it down. What would the world look like if leaders led as civilians, armed only with compassion and hope for a better future? I wonder if we’ll ever know.
Thank you for reading my letter. Please write back if you like.