Thanks God for Sonny Bill Williams.
Not only does he play sport like a demigod – and looks a bit like one too – but today he showed the sort of moral courage often missing from our homogenised instagrammed world.
Hours after he posted pictures of two dead Syrian children on his Twitter feed – and received a flood of negative and positive feedback from his followers – Sonny Bill Williams had still not removed the post.
His resolve, in an age of instant feedback and instant regret, was heartening.
Despite criticism from followers and some commentators that the pictures were disrespectful and exploitative and inappropriate, Williams must have made the decision it was far more inappropriate to deny the reality of a very distressing truth – children are being killed in Syria.
He probably thought appropriateness was a luxury reserved for people who live in a country that is lucky beyond measure, a country never consumed by war; a country where children are not bombed in their beds.
Earlier this month Sonny Bill visited a refugee camp in Lebanon with Unicef and has been raising awareness about the plight of child refugees since.
His statement at the time was moving in its simplicity. He said he realised he had been “ignorant” about refugees and ‘didn’t really know what a refugee was’”. I couldn’t help thinking, ‘no Sonny, neither do we’.
We watch the news on TV and consume it constantly online; we see pictures of little Aylan Kurdi, 3, who was washed up on a Turkish beach as his family tried to flee to Canada, and we are genuinely moved and connected to the plight of these poor people across the globe. But soon life moves on and we forget.
We quickly return to Christmas gifts under the tree, a warm bed to sleep in, long beach days and most importantly, safety.
We are not bad people for doing that. The Syrian crisis is happening on the other side of the world. We simply cannot make a difference to that every single day, although there are many who will try.
Sonny Bill recently visited Syrian refugee settlements with Unicef. Post continues below.
But what marks Sonny Bill as a man of compassion and morality is that he hasn’t returned from his life-changing trip to a refugee camp and forgotten. Instead, he asked Australians who are enjoying what we all know is a blessed time of year in a blessed country: “What did these children do to deserve this?”
He asked us to spare a thought for the “innocent lives lost everyday in war”.
I doubt he set out to be inappropriate by posting pictures of dead children. He probably wanted people to know that childrens’ death is not polite. It’s horrific. And he probably just wanted you and me to remember as we enjoy our summer that there are others who are not as fortunate as we are.
It might spur some to take real action on behalf of the refugees. It may make others more compassionate about refugees trying to enter our country. At the very least it might prompt most of us to say a humble thanks and a murmur of gratitude for our own lucky lives.