What should have been an ordinary photo of a boy holding a favourite toy, or playing sport - you know, typical childhood past-times - was instead an image that personified the complete loss of childhood innocence. The photo was of a 7-year-old boy holding the severed head of a slain Syrian soldier - in the same way my own son would hold the prize of an over-stuffed toy won at a fair. Except this wasn't an overstuffed toy. It was a human head. The "victory brag" of an evil, nonsensical war waged in the name of religion.
The photo was originally tweeted by a jihadist with the caption - "That's my boy." That's my boy.
For me, That's my boy, means being proud of my son for his achievements at school, for moving up to the next swimming level, for showing kindness to others. That's my boy. Expressing my pride in my son's tenacity in not giving up, for cheering him on at his soccer match. That's my boy. Words that should serve as an encouragement for our children for seeking the positive, for showing endearing qualities of character. Not for holding a severed head.
And that's where my words fail to express the gamut of emotions I feel - not only towards the photo (which humanizes the complete depravity of man) - but towards the present horrific atrocities occurring in the Middle East.
As a mother, my heart breaks for the loss of innocence of the child in the photo (and the countless other children being raised to be perpetrators of hate).
As a human, I am angry about the injustice and unadulterated evil being carried out by extremists in the name of religion.
As a woman - well there are simply no words to describe how I feel about all the women being violated in the most sadistic ways; Those whose dignity is being torn away and whose families are being ripped apart by the selfishness and brutality of many zealots in the name of a 'god'.
And as a Christian, I weep.
We are so insulated in our society to what real hardship and persecution looks or feels like. As a Christian, the only persecution I have faced is snide remarks or people scoffing at my faith. I have not had to flee my country to protect my family. I have not had to live in fear on a daily basis - worrying whether I will be raped or tortured or killed. And I wonder, if I was faced with such evil atrocities, if I had mine and my family's lives threatened, would my faith hold strong? I would hope that my answer would be, without any hesitation, yes.
As my heart aches for those Christians and those innocent women and children whose current reality is hell on earth, my prayer is that they would find hope and not lose heart. That they would know our God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. And that they would fix their eyes and hearts on the hope of a future that is with Him.