Dazed, disoriented, and covered in dust, 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh became the face of the Syrian conflict in August 2016.
A photo emerged showing the young boy sitting stunned in the back of an ambulance, injured in an attack on his neighborhood of al-Qaterji. The sobering image grabbed the world’s attention as we recoiled in horror, sadness, and, most of all, humanity.
Just a month later, debate around refugees has returned to a political calculation. It seems as though humanity has all but forgotten the plight of Omran, his family, and countless others in their home country.
A new video released by the White House shows just how deeply Omran’s story resonated and that even when the rest of the world seemed to move on, his story wasn’t lost forever.
The video features Alex, a 6-year-old boy from New York, who recently wrote a letter to President Obama a letter we could all learn from.
See, Alex didn’t forget Omran. Alex thinks about Omran, worries about Omran, and above all, wants to help Omran. His powerful letter to the president offers up his home, his toys, and his friendship to the young boy half a world away.
“Remember the boy who was picked up in the ambulance in Syria?” writes Alex.
“Remember the boy who was picked up by the ambulance in Syria? Can you please go get him and bring him to [my home]? Park in the driveway or on the street and we will be waiting for you guys with flags, flowers, and balloons. We will give him a family and he will be our brother. Catherine, my little sister, will be collecting butterflies and fireflies for him. In my school, I have a friend from Syria, Omar, and I will introduce him to Omar. We can all play together. We can invite him to birthday parties and he will teach us another language. We can teach him English too, just like my friend Aoto from Japan.”
“Please tell him that his brother will be Alex who is a very kind boy, just like him.”
“Please tell him that his brother will be Alex who is a very kind boy, just like him. Since he won’t bring toys and doesn’t have toys Catherine will share her big blue stripy white bunny. And I will share my bike and I will teach him how to ride it. I will teach him additions and subtractions in math. And he [can] smell Catherine’s lip gloss penguin which is green. She doesn’t let anyone touch it.”
Impressed with the raw humanity and compassion of Alex’s letter, President Obama read it aloud at the United Nations.
“The humanity that a young child can display, who hasnt learned to be cynical, or suspicious, or fearful of other people because of where theyre from, or how they look, or how they pray, and who just understands the notion of treating somebody that is like him with compassion, with kindness we can all learn from Alex,” added President Obama after reading Alex’s letter.
Once we get beyond political grandstanding on things like human rights and refugees, it becomes so simple and clear what the right thing is to do.
There are an estimated 21.3 million refugees in the world; half of them are under age 18. Before coming to the U.S., refugees undergo a thorough vetting process that can last months. The odds of a U.S. citizen dying at the hands of a terrorist attack carried out by a refugee is 1 in 3.64 billion a year.
Those who make arguments against helping people like Omran have typically relied on scare tactics about refugees being unvetted and unsafe. They’ve cited dubious statistics of crime in other countries as a warning for our own safety.
They are wrong, and they are starting to change their tune accordingly, appealing to our “quality of life” rather than our safety. As part of his latest stump speech, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is now making the argument that we should reject refugees for this reason. From a moral standpoint, from a human standpoint, and from an empathetic standpoint, that method of persuasion rings hollow.
Because of boys like Omran. Because of boys like Alex.
You can watch Alex read his heartwarming letter in the video below.
When he saw the image of the 5-year-old boy in Aleppo, Syria, 6-year-old Alex wrote a letter worth sharing with the whole world. (via President Obama)
Posted by Upworthy on Thursday, September 22, 2016