Morocco and the Arab world was gripped by sadness when five-year-old Rayan Oram died after a five-day operation to rescue him from the deep well into which he had fallen. Social networks and news websites in Arab and English have since become a global book of condolence for the child, who succeeded in uniting our hearts under a single word: humanity. This sense of humanity shines through years of political and ideological conflicts that drove us apart.
In theory, therefore, it should now be easier to unite the Arab people — indeed, the whole of mankind — if not the dictatorships that govern them. Unity is at the core of the human soul, too many of which are astray.
The accident and rescue of Rayan may be a one-off incident, but it has awoken some hope that our communities can strengthen our bonds into a single Arab nation. We are exhausted by inner rifts and even hideous racism introduced to us by foreign colonisers. Now is the time for us to discover and develop our mutual solidarity, perhaps by using the media through a humanitarian lens so that we can influence every aspect of life, including how we deal with global problems. Our people have lost millions of children in tragic circumstances; may the Almighty revitalise us all in our sense of humanity.
“We fell into the well of long-term corrupt dictatorships, so we rose up and held on to our dream and persevered,” wrote Osama Gaweesh. “We told ourselves that there is light at the end of the tunnel. We were united, as Rayan united us in his ordeal, and we grasped the one chance of survival and the success of the Arab Spring revolutions. Then, once we started to breathe in the air of freedom, joyful in our survival and victory, the dream ended and life was turned upside down.”
Grief prevailed on social networks, for the very sentimental but perfectly understandable reason of the death of a child. The world followed the story around the clock.
Canadian actress and singer Jill Hennessy expressed her condolences on Twitter:
— Jill Hennessy (@JillHennessy) February 5, 2022
The US Embassy in Rabat joined in the chorus with an official statement:
— U.S. Embassy Morocco (@USEmbMorocco) February 6, 2022
French President Emmanuel Macron did likewise on Facebook:
Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff, meanwhile, published a message to Rayan:
Asita Kanto, a member of the European Parliament, also expressed her feelings:
Sometimes there are no words strong enough to describe the horror of a situation.💔Little #Rayan died so alone and so brutally. Our thoughts are with him and his devastated family.
— Assita Kanko MEP (@Assita_Kanko) February 5, 2022
Pope Francis even mentioned Rayan in his Sunday prayers, mourning the boy’s death, and commending the people of Morocco. “A whole country has united to save Rayan,” said the pontiff. “A whole country was there, working to save a child. My gratitude to the Moroccan people, my gratitude for such a testimony.”
Now there is a sense of urgency to rescue another boy, the Syrian-born Fawaz Muhammad Al-Qatifan, who was kidnapped and brutally tortured — it’s all on video — to push his country to pay a ransom. As said by one of the many desperate posts on the internet, we lost Rayan, but we still need to run to save Fawaz.
— R a M a (@GazlehR) February 6, 2022
Rayan and Fawaz are not the first children to expose raw, deep-rooted feelings in the Arab world, and to lay bare its solidarity and collective conscience. This may mean that we will continue to put humanity above and before selfishness and nationalism, to care for our brothers and sister and help them to escape from the depths of dictatorships, occupation and colonisation.
Rayan and his spiritual brothers Muhammad Al-Durrah, Hamza Al-Khatib, Aylan Kurdi and Omran Daqneesh have left us too early. Our hearts ache because we couldn’t save them. They are the children whose names are known to us — what about the thousands of unknown others? — and they will remain with us, as some profound presence capable of uniting the Arab world.