Taking Action in Syria

At the end of worship in my Quaker meeting, we take a few moments to offer names of people we’d like others to “hold in the Light.”   In some faith traditions, the request would be to pray for someone. What I’m hoping when I hold someone in the Light is that he/she/they will listen for wisdom, both within and outside of themselves, and will feel a supportive, loving presence to guide their actions.
Last Sunday, I asked that we hold in the Light the 535 members of the United States Congress as well as President Obama and his cabinet as they seek ways to respond to the chemical weapons attacks in Damascus in August.
My hope is that these leaders, as well as others around the world, WILL act, but that they will choose nonviolent approaches rather than a military response.  Late last month, Yes! Magazine editor Sarah van Gelder succinctly spelled out “Eleven Reasons Why We Should Not Attack Syria.”  It’s worth reading her entire article, but here’s a list of the reasons:
1.     We don’t actually know who is behind the chemical weapons attack.
2.     A military strike would be illegal under the U.S. Constitution and the War Powers Resolution.
3.     It would violate international law, too.
4.     The American people oppose it.
5.     Violence begets violence.
6.     There are no logical targets.
7.     It will be impossible to control who benefits from Western intervention among the rebels.
8.     Civilians will be killed and maimed.
9.     There is no apparent exit strategy.
10.  There IS a better way.
Courtesy, Yes! Magazine
In fact, there are LOTS of better ways, and van Gelder spelled some of them out last week in another article, Six Alternatives to Military Strikes. Here’s a summary:
  1.    Bring those guilty of atrocities to justice through the International   Criminal Court (ICC).
  2.   Stop the flow of weapons from around the world into Syriathrough a United Nations embargo on arms and military supplies.
3.   The U.N. Security Council should hold an international peace conference such as those that resolved the wars in Southeast Asia through the Paris Conference on Cambodia, and in the Balkans through the Dayton Peace Agreement.
4.     Offer aid and support to the nonviolent movements within Syria.
5.     Provide desperately needed humanitarian aid to the millions of displaced people.
6.     Live within the rule of law by refraining from launching into a war that violates international law.
These are actions that I believe offer the best hope for peace. Fortunately, organizations like the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) make it easy for us to not only hold our leaders in the Light but also to contact them to let them know we support these better ways to act in response to the attacks in Syria.
I’m heartened that my own U.S. Representative Rick Larsen e-mailed constituents asking for help in his decision about how to vote on the authorization of military force.  I was happy to respond.  And according to the latest FCNL Action Alert, as well as President Obama’s speech on Sept. 10, leaders are listening.  It does appear that our country has moved, at least for now, a few steps back from military action and toward diplomacy as a response. Staff at FCNL are working hard to support this effort and remind us that “diplomacy is a marathon, not a sprint.”  They’ve organized a conference call for tonight, Sept. 11, to talk about the most recent information from Capitol Hill and what the U.S.’s decision to back away from bombing Syria means for prospects for peace. To join the call set for 8 PM Eastern Time, dial (712) 432-1500 and then the access number 380565#.

I plan to call in.  In the meantime, I’m continuing to hold in the Light world leaders and the people of Syria.

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