Military attacks are not the answer to Syria’s suffering

On Tuesday, images of scores of Syrians whose bodies had been ravaged by a chemical attack horrified the world, even many who have become all but inoculated to the face of suffering. While fingers pointed this way and that with blame for the use of chemical weapons, the magnitude of this tragedy called on each person of conscience to respond.

Sadly for those of us in the United States, our own government has chosen the way of war in response. With little reflection or consultation with either Congress or the international community, Donald Trump ordered airstrikes on April 6, which have reportedly killed nine civilians, including four children, to date. We agree with the President that “no child of God should ever suffer such horror.” We disagree that the way to prevent such horror is to add violence to violence.

Call the White House  202-456-1111 and your Senators and Congressional Representatives 202-224-3121 and tell them that military action only increases the dangers and intensifies the humanitarian catastrophe in the region.

The logic that a military strike, even a limited one, will deter and quell aggression from the Assad regime, or the armed resistance, or the movement of Al-Qaeda believed to be in Syria, is fundamentally flawed. In violent escalation, both sides respond in turn with their own escalation of use of arms and aggressive attacks. We are already seeing the rumbling of this in Russia’s pronouncement of the strike as “an act of aggression.”   As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.”

No one is questioning the necessity to act to prevent further suffering. The conflict in Syria, raging now for six years, has already caused tremendous devastation and harm. According to United Nations reports, over 400,000 persons have died due to the conflict and millions have become displaced or fled Syria. There are a multitude of horrors emanating from this crisis, which demands a response from all people of conscience who seek to eliminate suffering in every manifestation and form. The international community is agreed that we cannot stand idly by while crimes against humanity are being committed.

Now is the time to insist on the levers of diplomacy and the peacekeeping force of the United Nations. Yesterday’s U.S. airstrikes are in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which provides for investigation of alleged use of chemical agents by specialist bodies constituted by the Convention and recourse to the United Nations to authorize any use of force. Further unilateral action will only escalate an already dire situation.

Now is the time to insist on coordinated and global humanitarian aid: food, shelter, medical care, and assistance for refugees and displaced persons. Now is the time for the United States to turn toward those harmed by this conflict and provide shelter and sanctuary, not closed borders and bans. Now is the time to give, to pray, to vigil, and to insist that our elected officials hold the administration accountable for the words the President uttered just last night “call[ing] on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria…ask[ing] for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world..,[that] peace and harmony will, in the end, prevail.”

In the Fellowship of Reconciliation, we believe that “God’s wisdom” and wisdom from the world’s religious and spiritual traditions enjoins us to acknowledge the oneness of humanity, our interconnectedness, or as Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh calls it, our “inter-being.” We are in error if we believe we can do violence to another without also harming ourselves.

We are mistaken if we believe that the violence emanating from Syria is not connected to the global militarized culture which the United States perpetuates. By the same token, every daughter gasping for air through the searing pain of inhaling nerve gas is our own daughter. Every mother weeping over every son killed in active and armed conflict in Syria is our own mother, our own son. We are they and they are us. If we hold this truth, we will be able to see the conflict differently and will be led to solutions that seek peace for all rather than a one-sided victory.

Vigilante justice will never lead us to a lasting peace. We call on leaders, world citizens, and all people of faith and conscience, to vigorously resist escalation of militarization and aggression in Syria and to wage instead a campaign based on the truth that violent means can never bring peaceful ends. We pray for all who have been harmed, all who suffer, and for our interconnected global community.

Call the White House 202-456-1111 and your Senators and Congressional Representatives 202-224-3121 and tell them that military action only increases the dangers and intensifies the humanitarian catastrophe in the region.

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