Aya – A sign of hope. Aya, Arabic for “a sign from God,” is the name of a Syrian baby girl, whose mother died after giving birth to her amidst the ruins of their home in Jenderis during the recent earthquakes. She appears to be just this sign of hope in dark times, for her surviving family, for her affected community, and for the world witnessing this catastrophe from afar. Not a symbol of hope that denies or glosses over the devastating losses, destruction and cries of despair, but a sign of hope for restoration. Hope that is nourished by the indestructible dignity and willpower of the most affected to rebuild what has literally been shaken to the ground, and to actively participate in the process of restoration and healing.
Aya’s tragic birth reminds us not only of the vulnerability and giftedness of all life, but also of the responsibility and mutual care we are called to exhibit in protecting it, even under adverse circumstances. Ethical leadership represents such a life-preserving ethos. It is not an inward-looking, isolating attitude, but rather the cultivation of values that uphold the humanity in each individual and the interrelatedness of all humans with the living world. The praxis of such an ethical leadership, however, cannot be prescribed. The situations, locations, experiences, and even our worldviews may vary, but the responses culminate in the common desire to uplift the humane and the integrity of all life so that present and future generations can live.
What would otherwise remain abstract, becomes a lived reality in the example of Aya’s great-uncle, who is taking her into his family, currently living under a tent having lost their home. He may be perceived as such an ethical leader – not triumphant and overbearing – but humble and determined, marked by the thousands of deaths around him, and yet responsible and care-giving to Aya, and thereby modelling an outlook on the world and a behaviour that radiates far beyond Syria.
A tender story of hope for restoration amidst destruction and an inspirational story of ethical leadership. Life continues amidst all brokenness and can be rebuilt in a restorative, life-affirming and values-driven perspective.
Amélé Adamavi-Aho Ekué