The gifts of 2016 weren't sweetly wrapped in chic silver bows beneath a popcorn-trimmed tree. Rather its gifts were hiding under piles of muck, mire, and metaphorical dirty diapers. 2016 made us work for its rewards; an ongoing dichotomy. Low meeting high. Pain meeting beauty. Injustice meeting a renewed fervour for truth.
Despite it not being "my" holiday, I've always enjoyed Christmas, or at least the "spirit" of it. But in December of 2014 -- much like this year -- I was having a really hard time getting into it.
The trouble is, darkness doesn't go away during the Holidays. If anything, it can feel deeper, more acute. Perhaps that's why we work so hard to brighten things up with lights and candles, and reach out to those who are in need. Sometimes, a little extra care can make all the difference to a friend or neighbor in need.
"The winter months are even more brutal for children inside Syria. I saw children who fled their homes with nothing but the clothes on their back. After the horrors they have lived through, now they have to cope with the piercing cold."
The seven-year-old gained international attention for her tweets from the besieged Syrian city.
If there is anyone to blame, it is -- and can only be -- the governments implicated in this internationalized conflict. Those who support the armed groups, both militarily and logistically, and those who oppose the international justice system investigating the atrocities and crimes perpetrated in this conflict are all to blame.
Many were tweeting videos amid the destruction.
Much of Aleppo has vanished, but can still be found in these photos.
The challenge for Canadian foreign policy is to mitigate the risks of the rebels faltering in Aleppo, with the more long-term strategic challenge of Russia and Iran's vicious play for power. Should Aleppo fall, an even more dystopian region will emerge.
Syrian state forces have been bombing the region.
Bana Alabed was tweeting as Syrian troops captured former rebel-held areas of Aleppo.
For children living in one of the deadliest places on earth, this lack of safe water is a continuous threat to their survival. Alongside 100,000 children living in east Aleppo, nine-year-old Judy has been robbed of her childhood. Instead of going to school or playing with friends, her life is full of constant stress.
The carnage in Aleppo continues.
Last week's events in Syria speak to a conflict transformed into a humanitarian crisis that has worsened with time. In eastern Aleppo alone, at least 96 children have been killed and 223 others injured. Such circumstances make it increasingly harder to deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid.
If there was ever any doubt about Mr. Johnson's suitability for the office of the president of the United States, that response sealed the deal. If a candidate is that unaware of one of the most basic foreign policy issues of the day, he shouldn't be running for dog catcher, much less president.
The relentless bombardment on innocent civilians continue with casualties, death and destruction occurring every second. But this is just an ordinary day in Aleppo where simply every place is a target -- mosques, morgues, markets, bakeries, hospitals, ambulances, fire trucks, with absolutely nowhere safe for people to go.
Years ago, when I was young and reckless, I backpacked solo through Syria. One morning, at the bus station in Homs, I had to make a spur of the moment decision; I could go west, towards the sea and Lebanon, or I could go east, to the ancient city of Palmyra. I turned west. I never saw Palmyra. The 2000 year old city is now in the hands of ISIS.
Our organization works mainly in conflict-affected and unstable settings. Of these, we have chosen three to watch in 2014. In each country, governments are unable or unwilling to care for their populations, the ability of aid actors to respond has been curtailed, and populations are left to fend for themselves.
Imagine four-million people uprooted by war and struggling to survive. I came away in awe of the perseverance, dignity and fortitude of the Syrian people. They were also wondering why the international community for the most part seems to have abandoned them in their hour of need. It was a fairly straightforward question, the answer to which I am still struggling to find.
I have been writing for over a year now of the need to affirm and implement the Responsibility to Protect doctrine to help save Syrian civilians being massacred by the Assad regime. Everything that was predicted would happen in Syria as a result of international action has in fact resulted, but from international inaction. It is now as timely as it is necessary to increase pressure on Assad, and those loyal to him.