Last summer, the Western press was transfixed by the image of Aylan Kurdi, the young boy washed ashore after drowning during his father’s desperate trek across the Mediterranean. Suddenly Europe, the U.S. and Canada called out for action. Suddenly, the West paid attention.
And yet, this tragedy had been going on for years. Tens of thousands of children have died, both within Syria and along the harrowing route to sanctuary. Sadly, many on the receiving end of the refugee flow have remained indifferent, or worse, have closed their doors to those who managed to survive the journey. While we can blame the sea and the smugglers and the flimsy rafts for these children’s deaths, it is our own indifference and inaction that have allowed it to continue. We say we have our own problems to deal with. We are afraid a terrorist will infiltrate. Why should we take the risk of bringing in refugees?
Why? Because the only difference between me and a Syrian refugee is that I happen to be born in the U.S., and they happen to be born in Syria. I did nothing in particular to earn this twist of fortune. It could be me. Aylan could be my child. Or yours.
This painting is dedicated to these children and their parents. Many died within sight of the shoreline; their deaths were preventable. Now the same Aegean Sea that has long brought to mind joyful images of summer vacation and sun-kissed relaxation for Europeans, has become a killing field for the innocent.
I can only hope that our indifference will transform into compassionate action.