Ruth Dickinson

Incendiary bombs, like those dropped on the school in northern Syria at the end of August, fall into that category. The material from these bombs doesn’t stop reacting when it hits the skin. After a few minutes’ contact the damage looks superficial, but it carries on burning down to the bone. At least ten children died in that attack, and scores more were injured.

This is evil. And we shouldn’t be afraid of calling it that.

For many people, the particular horror of situations like the school bombing is the tipping point which make us go from standing idly by to feeling that something must be done.

But what? Our theologian in residence Greg Downes’ feature (The intractable issue of Syria) seeks to unpack the range of Christian thought on this bloody war, and how Christians can engage with the reality of what has been happening in Syria over the last 18 months ? in particular whether the Church could or should have supported a military strike on Assad’s regime.

Most couldn’t on the grounds that it did not meet the received wisdom of the just war criteria. But ‘intervention’ is not limited to that, and we must be careful now the debate is less of a live issue that we don’t just go back to praying about it and hoping it gets sorted out. There is a moral cost to doing nothing but wringing our hands.

And there’s more to ‘intervention’ than the humanitarian effort, too. Seeking to serve the millions of refugees who are now flooding into camps over the Syrian border is essential, noble and dangerous. But how do we get involved at a level which stops there being any need for refugee camps? I want to see Christians supporting, encouraging and praying for those in diplomatic service, politics and yes, the army, as they seek to stem the tide of violence, rather than just clear up the mess.

Without doubt, it is work that is seen as less ‘saintly’, or less ‘Christian’ even, but the diplomat who is making a compromise which turns his stomach for the sake of saving lives, and for which he would be abused in the press, is working in the same cause as the doctor who is bandaging wounds in the refugee camp.

As Christ’s ambassadors on earth we have to do our best to represent God ? God, who we always say, does not stand and watch while his people suffer and cry out for help, but who intervenes.