Our recent news cycles have been dominated by conversations about the war in Syria: the alleged use of chemical weapons on citizens there and the response (or lack of response) by the international community. President Obama has called for a targeted military strike, saying that the use of chemical weapons cannot go unpunished. The American people are wary of more military involvement in the Middle East. And upon the President’s request, Congress is poised to make a decision sometime next week about whether they will support military action.
The situation is complicated, and the practical moral choices faced by our nation’s leaders can indeed be difficult and ambiguous. At the same time, the political rhetoric and public talking points that we continue to hear leave little room for a third way. The presented choice between doing nothing and a military strike draws a false dichotomy does not leave room for another kind of action.
The humanitarian work of making peace is a risky and sometimes costly endeavor, but this is the work to which we are called. Mennonite Central Committee gives us this perspective to guide our thinking and conversation on Syria:
Mennonite Central Committee urgently calls on all governments and parties to the conflict to end the violence in Syria. We condemn in the strongest terms all forms of violence and war, including missile strikes, use of chemical weapons, targeted acts of violence against civilians, conventional warfare and suicide bombings.
Further militarization of the conflict will only increase the suffering of the Syrian people and the shattering of Syrian society.
We call on all nations to immediately end shipments of military equipment and arms to the Syrian government and to rebel groups, and to increase contributions of food and other humanitarian assistance to civilians in all areas of Syria and to Syrian refugees who have fled to neighboring countries, and their host communities.
We call on the international community, and Syrians from all sides, to negotiate with urgency and seriousness an inclusive political solution to the crisis, guaranteeing the rights of all Syrians.
In the name of Christ, we pray and work for peace in Syria.
Public theologian Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite calls even more strongly for another way, reminding us that all war is a moral obscenity. She offers a brief history on the use of chemical weapons and how they have been elevated to a status worse than “conventional” warfare, and ends by reminding us that “It is this war that must be stopped, and bombing campaigns do not end war. Peace negotiations end war.”
For those interested in adding voice to perspectives calling for peace, MCC here and local Mid-Missouri Peaceworks here are encouraging people of peace to contact our elected officials and oppose U.S. military action in Syria.