"There will be some heart-wrenching footage," the anchor of an international news program said yesterday morning. What was televised then was video taken of northern Syria, where many anti-government forces are based.
People could be seen lying in the shade of buildings and on hospital beds. With vacant eyes, a boy convulsed. A young man moaned as his body bent backward. A young expressionless girl foamed at the mouth, her eyes wide open. The scene was the aftermath of a chemical bombing. Government forces are believed to have used the nerve agent sarin. Nearly 30 children are said to have died from the attack.
In 2013, the international community pressured the Syrian government to eliminate its chemical weapons arsenal. The government was believed to have handed over all its chemical weapons to an international agency. So either it had kept some of its chemical weapons hidden, or produced them again. The Syrian government, however, denies using chemical weapons at all.
The civil war in Syria has continued for over six years. According to the children's charity UNICEF, at least 652 children were killed in the fighting last year. The actual number is believed to be much greater, and UNICEF reported that it was a "rock bottom" year of suffering for Syrian children -- and there seems to be no end to it.
The late actress Audrey Hepburn, who in the past served as a UNICEF International Goodwill Ambassador, visited Somalia, which had been hit hard by civil war and famine. There, surrounded by starving children, she told the world that it was complicit in Somalia's tragic state, and that while it may not have collective guilt, it did have collective responsibility.
Have we grown too accustomed to the violence and destruction that takes place every day? Have we become too distracted by new circumstances that are emerging? Let us remember the adage, "indifference leads to complicity." It is not someone, somewhere out there, who will put an end to the suffering. ("Yoroku," a front-page column in the Mainichi Shimbun)