Kristen Douglas

Turning blind eye to conflict is the easy way out

Last week I had the pleasure of being invited into the home of Merell and Fouad Awad

There are certain perks that come along with this job from time to time.

Whether it be getting the chance to meet Canucks great Trevor Linden, getting put up in a spectacular, ocean-view room at Hollyhock resort or crossing the Elk Falls suspension bridge before its opening date.

But the greatest joy of all comes from the people I get to meet.

Last week I had the pleasure of being invited into the home of Merell and Fouad Awad, co-owner’s of the popular Baba Gannouj restaurant.

Both were very warm and welcoming even though I was there to talk about a difficult and tense situation.

Merell’s family – including her mother and two sisters and their families – are stuck in Syria, living under the constant threat of attack.

Merell was honest and straightforward in her answers to my questions as she described rockets landing only mere minutes from her family’s homes.

While I was there to do my job, I could sympathize with what she’s going through and it struck me just how difficult it must be for her – each phone call she makes to her family, she never knows if it may be the last.

She also described how her nephew, who is on anti-rejection medication for a kidney transplant, was poisoned recently by expired medication.

As a regular customer to the pharmacy, I can’t imagine what that must feel like to have to be on heightened alert that the pharmacist may give me out of date drugs that could harm me.

No one should have to live with that kind of fear.

But they do, it’s real.

It’s just hard for a lot of us to imagine because it’s happening on the other side of the world so we feel detached from the situation, like it’s not really relevant to us.

But there are horrible things going on in the world where we choose to pay attention or not. Syria is just one example of many.

We are fortunate in Canada we don’t have to live in fear that our government may turn on us and allow – or order – the killing of innocent people.

We have access to food, medicine, shelter, and technology.

While it’s easy to turn a blind eye to others’ struggles, it’s important to pay attention. If we don’t, those less fortunate than us will never find a way out.

There are small things you can do.

On Saturday, Oct. 3 you can help Merell and Fouad bring their family to Canada – and safety – by attending a fundraiser dinner, complete with traditional Syrian food and belly dancing.

The fundraiser is being led by the Anglican Church, and other generous volunteers.

St. Peter’s Anglican Church is to be commended for its work in undertaking the process to sponsor Merell and Fouad’s 12 family members. It’s not the first time for the local church which has also sponsored refugees from Bosnia, Kosovo, and, most recently, Pakistan.

It will be a lengthy process – Merell told me the family has to travel from Syria to either Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan where they will have to stay unemployed for a minimum of six months before being approved by the Canadian embassy in those countries for entrance into Canada. But I wish the best for the family and hope that in due time they will be en route to Campbell River and settling in our community.

While Merell is clearly a strong woman, it’s heartbreaking to hear her describe how her mother is living in a home where all of her glass windows have been blown out from a rocket landing 10 minutes away, or about how panicked her sister was after a car bomb exploded while her daughter was outside playing.

No one should have to live like that.

I know it’s impossible to save everybody, but every little bit counts and when the opportunity arises to help someone out, we should take it.