This is my son Ardon. He is two and a half years old. He loves Thomas the Tank Engine, his baby sister and helping mummy water the garden. He hates haircuts and turning off the TV.
And then there is precious little Aylan Kurdi, the three year old Syrian refugee who recently drowned off the Turkish coast while attempting to flee the fighting between ISIS and Kurdish forces near his hometown of Kobani.
His story has cut my heart to the core, as it has for many Australians and people around the world. I have broken down many times over the last few days, grieving over the senseless loss of such innocent lives.
Looking at the pictures of Aylan’s poor lifeless body, curled up on the sand as if he was sleeping, and then the beautiful tributes from artists around the world, I was brought to a deep sense of the loss that his father must be feeling.
What if that was my son Ardon lying washed up on the beach? What if I had to make such a decision for my family? To live in fear of death or risk the lives of me and my family in the hope of a better life?
By what twist of fate was I born into a country free of such danger, free to raise a family in peace and comfort, while Aylan and his family are subjected to terror and perpetual uncertainty? I am so fortunate to live in a country like Australia, and yet, I am really not that far removed from this tragedy at all.
It could have been me
It could quite easily have been me, making that most risky and dangerous of decisions. I did not choose to be born here. Aylan’s father, Abdullah Kurdi did not choose to be born in such a volatile region either. None of us get to choose, and none of us would choose to be born into such an environment.
And so as I sat with tears in my eyes, I contemplated the fact that it could have been me. It could have been my son, my family, lost to this life. My precious son, who fills my life with so much joy, gone forever. My son, who loves to play hide and seek and kick a ball with his daddy and who gets so excited about going to visit Grandma and Grandad, laying lifeless in the sand as the waves kissed his face. Never again would I see his smile, or laugh at the way he blows bubbles on my belly.
In that moment I was united with Abdullah Kurdi in his grief. I felt something of his pain and knew his agony of making a decision that cost his wife and children their lives. A decision that had to be made, because the alternative offered no hope at all.
Voices crying in the wilderness
I am Abdullah Kurdi. We all are. His son Aylan is the child of all humanity. I have grieved as if he were my own son. I miss him and wish we could have done more to protect his innocent life.
We have a choice now, an opportunity, to begin to listen to voices crying in the wilderness. The voices so easily ignored in the past. Because the truth is, Aylan is not the first. He is but one heart in a very deep, very tragic sea of people who have died fleeing from war and persecution because countries choose to ignore their voices and provide them shelter.
I could not celebrate this Father’s Day. I could only hold Abdullah Kurdi in my heart, knowing that many more fathers will still go through the torment of having to risk their children’s lives in order to bring them to a place of safety.
I know that governments will continue to drag their feet and claim that they are doing more than their fair share. I know that more children will continue to wash up on beaches until we provide them with protection.
Aylan - making the world better
And so I drove, with my beloved son asleep in the back. I listened to his light snoring and thanked God that I have not had to experience such loss. Some of you have and it breaks my heart. I honour you for having the courage to face your own loss and identify with Abdullah.
I have held Ardon so much closer since this devastating loss of life broke into my own experience. I am sure that we have all cherished our children and spoken words of life and love over them all the more. At least in this small way, Aylan’s death has made the world a better place. It’s time for us to pick up the mantle, carried by such small shoulders and continue the job.
Russell Croft has a heart for community and reaching out to the marginalised and forgotten. He is getting to know the God of infinite goodness and is living a joy-filled life with his wife Belinda and three children in South-East Queensland, Australia.
See all previous articles by Russell Croft