In America, we might not understand persecution

Published 1:54 am Saturday, September 5, 2015

The image is gripping.

A small boy, wearing what appears to be denim shorts, a red T-shirt, and tennis shoes, lies facedown on the beach. He is dark-headed, and looks as if he could have tripped and fallen as he ran through the surf.

Only he didn’t trip. He drowned.

And we have learned in the past week that the boy, 3, his mother, 35, and brother, 5, – all Syrian refugees – drowned along with 20 others when their boat capsized, apparently en route to Greece. Little Aylan’s body washed ashore in Turkey.

The family’s ultimate goal was to reach Canada, where the little boys’ aunt lives.

As The Washington Post wrote, “He fled his home, where he wasn’t wanted, sought shelter on an island that didn’t want him, and died on the shores of a land that perhaps wanted him least of all.”

I listened to an interview with the boys’ father.

“Now, I just want to bury my family and sit on their graves,” he said.

It is estimated that millions are dead or on the run from the Islamic state’s continuing destruction in Syria and Iraq.

In Budapest, thousands sat in a crowded train for days while European officials tried to decide where they should go. Many eventually disembarked and began walking toward Germany or Austria.

In Germany, thousands of the 800,000 refugees expected this year actually arrived by train.

I don’t pretend to comprehend the enormity of it. I do find it fascinating that the country from which many fled to avoid persecution in the last century is now a refuge for those seeking the same thing.

And in America?

A thrice-divorced clerk in Kentucky was jailed after she defied a judge’s order that she issue same-sex marriage licenses – or at least allow the six deputy clerks who work for her to do so. Despite this being her fourth, she says she is a sanctity of marriage supporter.

“Religious persecution,” her supporters cried. The woman, Kim Davis, is enjoying their support from a jail cell.

Back to the little boy on the beach. The image of little Aylan reminds me of the days when a dark-haired boy I love was 3, sporting elastic-waist denim shorts, and generally charming us all. I can think of nothing his parents, his grandparents, and his devoted aunt wouldn’t have done to keep him and his big sister safe. Fortunately, we didn’t have to leave home with only the belongings we could carry and risk our lives to do so.

Despite all that blustering this week, I think in America, we may not comprehend what religious persecution really looks like.

Now, do we?