A troubled people


I have been planning on writing this article for a few days now, but world events have overtaken me. I just have to write this. The idea for this post started out being a review of a book – and I will do that, but the underlying story is much, much bigger. I was just going to write a simple, straight forward review of a novel for young people, but the news headlines of the last few days shout louder than any review.

The people of Syria are experiencing something I can never imagine. War in recent times has ravaged their beautiful country and continues to do so as I write. It is daily in our news broadcasts. I don’t know enough about the politics of the conflict to comment, but I do appreciate the massive humanitarian crisis which has developed over recent months, culminating in very recent events.

None can forget the image of the drowned body of a small boy on the beach. His family was one of millions attempting to escape the war zone. Many are heading towards European countries by any means possible. The scale of the tragedy is unimaginable. I cannot imagine a body of refugees the size of a large part of the Australian population migrating in part on foot with only a few hand-held possessions. I cannot begin to imagine what they are going through, the terror they must feel, the sense of dislocation, and the utter hopelessness of their actions. We cannot sit idly by and ignore their plight.

Only minutes ago I checked the news, and this morning the Australian Government announced that we will be accepting an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees into Australia. While this is good news, I feel that it is pitifully short of what we could, and should be doing. Double, or triple that amount would be more like it, in my opinion. In the same news bulletin the government announced that it is giving the go-ahead for our planes to join forces in bombing raids on Syria. I, like so many others, despair at news like this. This is not our conflict. Surely Australian involvement can only cause more suffering?

Book Review: “Zafir” written by Prue Mason. (Published by Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2015.)

“Zafir” is another in the highly acclaimed series of novels in the “Through My Eyes” series for young adults. This series aims to tell first hand accounts of war zones through the eyes of children caught in conflict. Zafir, a young boy caught in the start of the conflict in Syria a few years ago, grapples with what war means to him, and how it impacts various members of his family. Not only are immediate family members injured, some are arrested and imprisoned without trial and many in the close, loving family are displaced persons in their own country.

When Zafir is on his way to school he sees a body dumped from a moving car. He is concerned that nobody stops to help and he is told to forget he ever saw it. The conflict he feels as a result, and the rapidly deteriorating situation politically and socially, brings a nervous uneasiness into his life, and the downward spiral into his family’s displacement begins. Add to this is the conflicting spiritual influences in his life and we observe his whole world collapse around him – literally due to bombing of his home, and metaphorically with the arrest of his father.

This is a fast moving, intense story which feels like an action movie, reads like an adventure story, confronts the reader with the reality of war and mirrors today’s newspapers and television news broadcasts. Highly recommended.

Further reading:

Poem #42: Anzac Cove

Anzac Cove

And then –

Young hearts and heads adventure filled
Were drawn to other lands by those
Whose fear, concern or hatred fueled
Through actions –  bold, aggressive foes.

On ships they came upon that shore
With brave anticipation high.
A storm of lead hit to the core
And took young men without a sigh.

That stain of blood spread o’er the beach
As brave young lives cut short and lost
So far from home, in senseless reach
For peace –  elusive, at what cost?

And now –

At Anzac Cove, a company
Of young Australians out to seek
And fashion their own destiny –
A solemn, silent, vigil keep.

(C) 2008 Trevor W. Hampel. All rights reserved.

The people of Australia and New Zealand celebrate their war heroes on this day, April 25th. The date commemorates the landing of our soldiers at Gallipoli in Turkey during World War I. It is now known as Anzac Cove. Tens of thousands of pilgrims – many of them young people – gather for the dawn service there every year. It has become a sacred, significant and moving ceremony for those who make the journey. The dawn service is also a feature of celebrations throughout both nations, together with marches through towns and cities everywhere.

Mt Macedon War Memorial

Mt Macedon War Memorial

Note: this poem was originally posted on ANZAC Day 2008. I am republishing it on ANZAC Day 2009.