Written by Anthony Moujaes
The time is now for people of faith to call on the U.S. government to pursue a political solution to the crisis in Syria. The United Church of Christ leadership is asking members to raise their collective voice and implore the government not to use a military strike against Syria, and instead use all diplomatic and humanitarian means to resolve the crisis.
Church leaders recognize that a political answer to the Syrian Civil War, which began 30 months ago, is challenging to achieve, but believe military action in the region would do more harm than good.
"While a diplomatic solution to the crisis is elusive, there is no alternative to a political settlement. U.S. military intervention will only escalate and prolong the violence," said the Rev. Jim Moos, executive minister for the UCC’s Wider Church Ministries and one of the UCC’s national officers.
The Obama administration determined that the Syrian government crossed a line with its use of chemical weapons against its own people in an attack that killed approximately 1,500 civilians – including children. UCC leaders agree with the global community condemning the use of chemical weapons in killing innocent civilians, and that the use of those weapons violates international law and requires those responsible to be brought to justice. But our faith leaders say the use of military force by the U.S government, regardless of how small or limited in nature, would further destabilize the entire Middle East region.
To that end, the UCC is calling on government leaders to pursue a diplomatic resolution and avoid any military intervention.
"A military solution would eliminate the potential for what is needed most – a politically negotiated settlement led by the United Nations with U.S. support that seeks to contain the violence, restore stability in the region, provide humanitarian assistance, and encourage the building of an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens," the church wrote in its appeal.
The Syrian Civil War started as a rebellion against Prime Minister Bashir al-Assad's government in March 2011. So far 4 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes, 1.7 million have fled to nearby Middle East countries for safety and 100,000 lives have been lost in the fighting.
Global Ministries – the joint ministry of the UCC and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) – also recently joined a coalition of 25 organizations in a letter sent to President Obama, urging the U.S. to avoid a military strike again Syria. The letter, sent to the White House last week, states, "While we unequivocally condemn any use of chemical weapons along with continued indiscriminate killing of civilians and other violations of international humanitarian law, military strikes are not the answer."
The full text of the letter to President Obama reads:
We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to express our grave concerns with your reported plans to intervene militarily in Syria. While we unequivocally condemn any use of chemical weapons along with continued indiscriminate killing of civilians and other violations of international humanitarian law, military strikes are not the answer. Rather than bringing an end to the violence that has already cost more than 100,000 lives, they threaten to widen the vicious civil war in Syria and undermine prospects to de-escalate the conflict and eventually reach a negotiated settlement.
In the course of more than [two] years of war, much of Syria has been destroyed and nearly 2 million people - half of them children - have been forced to flee to neighboring countries. We thank you for the generous humanitarian assistance the US has provided to support the nearly one in three Syrians - 8 million people - in need of aid. But such assistance is not enough.
As the U.S. government itself has recognized, there is no solution to the crisis other than a political one. Instead of pursuing military strikes and arming parties to the conflict, we urge your administration to intensify diplomatic efforts to stop the bloodshed, before Syria is destroyed and the region further destabilized.
Global Ministries has been active in supporting humanitarian relief efforts through several Middle Eastern partners. UCC and Disciples members are encouraged to support such work by their contributions to Syria relief through One Great Hour of Sharing.
"Millions of Syrians have been displaced and are in need of assistance, and a high percentage of them are children," Moos said. "Through our One Great Hour of Sharing appeal for Syrian Humanitarian Relief, we are responding."