8. Bana al-Abed: The 7 Year Old Peace Preacher
The human experience has blinders. If "shocking" events of 2016, like the Brexit vote and the election of President Donald Trump prove anything, it's that our perception is often confined in a bubble. Often, we think we know and we have absolutely no idea.
Through the power of stories, we have a "window" into the lives of others. One platform for that is social media. One window I discovered was into war-torn Aleppo, Syria. Holding that window wide open – for me and more than 365,000 others – were seven year old Bana al-Abed and her mother Fatemah al-Abed. Recently, Bana has been referred to be the New York Times as "Aleppo's civilian face". For those who don't know, here's a brief, helpful explainer from blogger Caitlin Bishop.
Within the conflict between rebel forces and the government, approximately 250,000 civilians (according to the UN Security Council) have been quite literally trapped in the crossfire in Aleppo. Bana and Fatemah were among those trapped.
In September 2016, Fatemah created a Twitter account in her daughter's name to tell their story. Through telling her story, Bana earned the moniker of "our era's Anne Frank". Below are some of the posts from Bana and her mother. Frankly, they're raw and real, showing both Bana's childhood and her loss of innocence. Multiple times, they feature Bana expressing her fear that it would be her last day. I'll let you see some of what Bana and Fatemah shared for yourself.
For Bana, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. In December 2016, during a ceasefire, Bana and her family escaped Aleppo.
Through Bana and Fatemah, I've gained a better perspective on the world she lives in and on the world I live in. It doesn't tell the full story by any means but it's added to the empathy and understanding I have for people in war-torn nations, those surrounded by conflict like I may never truly grasp. This speaks to the power of story, whether read, heard, seen or felt. I'm thankful for Bana and Fatemah and, if her 385,000 social media following is any indication, I'm sure tens of thousands of others wouldn't hesitate to say the same.