There can be few greater contrasts than between the safety and security of the United Kingdom and the chaos that has enveloped Syria. In London the daily routine of a functioning city with its prominent concerns over sport and celebrity allows us to respond in detached disbelief at the barrel bombs and screaming children that make it on to our screens in footage from Syria. Much of that footage is gathered on the same kind of phones that we use for fruit ninja rather than chronicling a descent into hell.
I thought that we lived in an era that looked back on the horrors of Rwanda and Yugoslavia and said 'never again' and meant it. Sadly I think the crisis in Syria proves all of us wrong and we are all collectively guilty for allowing the country to collapse as it has. Three years on and we see both a biblical level exodus combined with a levels of violence that few of us could have imagined in our wildest dreams. Over nine million people, nearly half of the country, forced from their homes and on the move exposed to a new life of uncertainty, poverty and too often despair. This is the equivalent of the whole of London fleeing from bombs, bullets and butchery. In a conflict where 95% of the population are not combatants, we surely cannot let this horror continue.
Some say that the situation is too complex and that there are not any 'good guys'. But isn't 10,000 dead children enough of a testimony to how the most vulnerable are paying the biggest price? Some say that caring about Syria means supporting military intervention, but what about supporting international norms, the laws of war and our basic humanitarian conscience
The #WithSyria campaign shows us a glimpse of what can be. It tells a message of hope and of light flickering in the consuming darkness. At a time when millions of Syrians think the world has forgotten them, over one hundred and thirty organisations from twenty seven countries have come together with hundreds of thousands of individuals, both online and in person at vigils of solidarity in over forty countries across the planet. The impact on social media has been similarly staggering, with nearly half the population of twitter reached by voices of support for the Syrian people. From Moscow to Washington, Za'atari refugee camp to the Turkish-Syrian border, from Somalia to Darfur people have united behind a simple call that this anniversary of the crisis should be the last marked by suffering and bloodshed.
The campaign has also prompted some unexpected voices to come to the fore and show their support for the plight of the Syrian people. The elusive street artist Banksy reworked perhaps his most famous image, the girl with the red balloon, as a symbol for the campaign. This was also the inspiration for a stirring video featuring the voice of Idris Elba and music from Elbow that was watched by tens of thousands on the weekend of the third anniversary of the crisis. Both carry a simple and moving message often absent from the despairing narrative that surrounds the Syrian conflict -there is always hope.
Politicians of all stripes cannot fail to agree that a three year old conflict that has cost so much already can be allowed to continue unchecked, and many including David Cameron, Francois Hollande and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon have already spoken out in support of the campaign. I think I can speak to the notion that hope must somehow replace fear and loss as the emotion we associate with the country and its people who are so stricken by the conflict. I stand #WithSyria. Do you?Suggest a correction