Yesterday I got to spend the day with children, which I really needed. I didn’t plan it and it wasn’t on the itinerary. While our team met with Iraqis at the Caritas Center near the Italian Hospital in Amman, I played with three Iraqi children while they waited for their mom to finish receiving services at the center. They didn’t speak much English and my Arabic is only good enough to tell them that I’m from America and to find out their ages and that they were from Baghdad. But that didn’t stop us from having a good time.
We played tag, hide and seek and I tried to teach them Miss Mary Mack. They climbed all over me and played with my hair. And in the end it struck me that if we could do only one thing for the Iraqis, one small thing to try and make up for some of the destruction we’ve caused, it would be to do right by their children.
Now I realize that the situation is incredibly complex and that there are many things we really need to do in order to facilitate a positive solution to this crisis. And I also know that children can only have a bright future if their parents are secure and able to provide for them. So I in no means intend to take the focus away from the very real needs of the parents. But I also know that the Iraqis value their children above all else. We have heard this time and time again. “The only thing that matters is that my children have a chance at a good future,” “My life is over now, but my children must have a chance at an education,” “I’ll leave Iraq when my children say it’s time, they are just starting their lives.” And the list goes on…
Childhood is interrupted by war and displacement. Children must leave their house, their friends, their old school and in many cases, their extended families back in Iraq. They have lost loved ones, witnessed daily violence and for some, experienced the terror of kidnapping themselves. Many struggle to be integrated into the school system here in Jordan, experiencing harassment and facing an educational system that’s vastly different than the one in Iraq. The children are often way behind their Jordanian counterparts, partly due to differences in the curriculum and partly because many had been sequestered in their homes for months before the family fled.
But it’s not too late. Their parents are standing by ready to do whatever it takes to give them a brighter future. We must stand with them. The price of doing nothing is just too great.