The Story of Omran and Julian

Mahmoud Raslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Mahmoud Raslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

This image has hit me like a ton of bricks this week, and I can’t shake it.

I’m not big on praying, but this has brought me to the point of wanting to pray, to pray for an end to stories like this.

This is 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh. Omran and his family live in Aleppo, Syria, one of the most war-torn places on the planet. Yesterday, a government airstrike hit his home in a part of the city controlled by rebels. Omran and his family were buried in the rubble. Fortunately, they all survived, with minor injuries.

Omran was pulled from the rubble, and carried to the back of an ambulance. In the midst of so much noise, he was silent, most likely suffering from shock. He had a cut on his head, and the blood was running down his face. As he sat, he reached up and wiped at his face. Seeing blood on his hand, he tried to wipe it on the seat.

Omran reminds me of my son, Julian, who will soon be four and looks a lot like Omran. Julian, fortunately, lives in middle class Tulsa Oklahoma. The chances that his home will be hit with an airstrike any time soon are nil. There will likely never be a picture like this taken of my son.

But they are so alike. All that separates them is half a world. I imagine if they met, they would likely get along. Omran appears to have some cartoon character on his shirt, and Julian would surely know who it is and they would have lots to talk about. Omran probably likes soccer, and so does Julian, so that is another commonality.

But, while Julian’s life has been serene and safe, Omran has spent all of his five short years living in terror, even if he didn’t know it, of this exact thing happening. Omran’s life expectancy is so much shorter than Julian’s because he lives in Aleppo. And, Omran’s chances of escaping the terror he lives with are small to none, because much of the western world that can help has decided Syrian victims like Omran who become refugees are much too dangerous to give a safe home to.

In my own country, for instance, one of our major presidential candidates has gone so far as to say that Omran, if he were to come here, would immediately be suspect of being a perpetrator of terror, and would need to be detained and then sent back to Aleppo, to the bombs and planes and terrors he was fleeing.

And, all the while, Julian will play and grow and not know fear or need or terror. Julian will almost certainly grow into a well-adjusted, carefree man. Omran’s chances of that are minuscule. Because the world has decided there is nothing to be done for him. He is collateral damage. The leader of his country will continue to target him and his family for violence, and the rebel’s supposedly fighting for his freedom will continue to use him as a human shield.

And meanwhile, the world will stand by, because 13 years ago, we were all incredibly short-sighted and selfish and irresponsible and decided to enter into a war in a country neighboring Syria that we did not need to enter into. And because that war was such a debacle, violence and terror was spawned across the entire region, and the ability of the world to intervene and act in a credible way in that part of the world was hampered and hindered for decades to come. And so Omran becomes another casualty of the mistake that was the Iraq War, and more importantly, of our Western hubris.

And so all of this brings me back to looking at that picture, and having a question pop into my mind:

What is so damn important that Omran has to suffer?

What have we all decided, in our collective insanity, is so much more important than this little boy’s life and happiness and safety? More important than his ability to just be a 5 year old little boy who likes cartoons and soccer?

When and why did we all decide that Julian, as much as I love and cherish him, has more worth than Omran?

What are we all fighting for that has more worth than Omran?

Please enlighten me. Because I can’t think of a damn thing.


3 thoughts on “The Story of Omran and Julian

  1. Tell you what I think?
    First, Justin, comes the feeling and, just as you so eloquently put it,
    it is one of heartbreak. What follows is a thought. “I’m helpless to
    respond in any meaningful way to this particular crisis.”
    The impact of that truth is profound.
    That does not, however, let me off the hook.
    For example, the next time I hear someone admit they just don’t
    “follow politics”, I may or may not confront them on the spot.
    But, I will remember them.
    I’ll ruminate on their attitude. How can I engage them in something
    for which they feel so much antipathy?
    And then, I’ll roll up my sleeves and get to work.
    Creative problem solving it is to figure out ways to entice people
    to get about the business of giving back to life, as opposed to just….taking.
    Thanks for yet another fabulous, thoughtful, deeply-moving piece, my friend.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you, Mr. DaMetz, for putting into words so eloquently and visually what I, and I am sure many others, felt on seeing the images of this child. You nailed it. I’ve long said my organizing days are over, but I seem to have grown lazy in my old age. That must change.

    Yes, most of us feel helpless and powerless to effect change. It might serve all of us well to understand how the Tea Party rose to prominence (apart from the enormous cash coffers provided by the Koch Brothers). First, individuals volunteered in local politics, working within their communities at the most grassroots level to get their message out. Gradually, they grew to be influencers. Then they moved on to slightly bigger political arenas, eventually commanding large voting blocs and influence in their state legislatures and finally moving into the U.S. Congress.

    Those of us who seek systemic change need to take a lesson from that book, get involved in our local schools, precincts and single-issue political arenas and quietly begin to learn how to effect lasting change in our communities. As we grow in insider knowledge and skill, those of us who can must move on, as we are able, to influencing larger and larger political arenas. Some of us may go all the way to the White House, one way or another. Most of us will continue as community volunteers and organizers.

    If we hope to grow a peaceful world, we must begin within our homes, neighborhoods and communities. While changing our homes and communities, we just might change the world.


  3. Jon Brown-Schmidt

    It is borderline shameful and definitely self-centric that some area of the world’s future, war torn since the time of Christ, somehow is hinged on your political view. Ignorantly proposing that up until the rise of the Tea Party, Donald Trump, W, or the Iraq war; the people of that region were living in peace free from all fears of war. All the while the progressive movement, currently ruling our country and that many of you cling too, has stood by and allowed this to happen. War and violence, is not an attribute of the conservative movement, simply by virtue of your equal hatred for both. Moreover, while one political entity may wish to control access to the US, the one in power could bring Omran and his family to live in the White House today if they so choose. Do you share the same hatred for this lack of action?

    These events don’t make sense in a progressive worldview (political and theological) as it is based on the ideology that man can both be good on his own and create good on his own. That is, the expectation within the progressive movement is that man, when given the correct experiences, forced to adhere to the proper principles, or given the ‘proper’ education will always choose what is deemed ‘good’ by the progressive. Further, once the individual has been taught these things, the state now will operate at utopian efficiency guaranteeing pure earthly joy and earthly peace to all who reside in its borders and under its ideology. (see Venezuela)

    Standing in the way of man and his ideals, is God. The Bible is built on story after story of man trying to do his own thing, rather than follow God. Within the Biblical worldview, the desire to help Omran and his nation don’t change, but the object of your hatred does. US leaders have little to do with the killing Omran, regardless of the short sighted nature of their actions. It was the sin within the leaders of the opposing factions in Syria is to blame. It is the sin within us all that prevents us from seeing clearly the solutions to earthly peace(1 Corinthians 13:12). It is why we will never solve the broken world we live in and we will continually struggle (John 16:33). As such, to claim you have a peace bringing political or cultural ideology that trumps (pun intended) all others is blind arrogance.

    However, God does not abandon us to our own devices as the progressive believes. For Christ has brought a peace between God and man (John 16:33). In that, we are free to believe in the salvation of Christ, free to call upon God’s name and free to enjoy the peace that confidence in our eternal salvation through Christ’s death and resurrection brings. Further, we are free to tell the world of the salvation of Christ. Not some half-hearted, self-centric, short lived social justice induced peace that ebbs and flows like a tide; but true eternal peace of Christ’s salvation.

    Regardless if the next president is a the first female or a man with a perpetual tan; the Omran’s of the world will exist. Regardless of which political or theological ideology permeates the world’s nations; world conflict will still exist. Believing in a human solution, is futile. It has been unsuccessfully tried since Eve and universally ends in the loss of human life. The Omran’s and Julian’s don’t need a political or cultural ideology, they don’t need money and according to Christ they don’t require earthly peace. They need the Gospel (John 14:27).

    The world needs less religious individuals attempting to bring earthly peace to a sinful world by pointing fingers and more Christians willing to bring the eternal peace of Christ to the hearts of those lost to sin.


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