Thursday, September 5, 2013

A prayer for peace...

The following statement was issued on 5 September 2013

A lament for the people of Syria and a prayer for peace

The current debate in the United States Congress over whether to go to war against Syria gives the United States the opportunity to place sanity, logic and respect for the right to life above the understandable desire simply to hit back in anger and punish President Bashar al-Assad and his regime for their evil use of chemical weapons.

Yes, Syria's dictator has killed his own people. Yes, we all acknowledge the insanity of chemical attacks. Yes, we were horrified by the images of children, their parents and grandparents who died agonising deaths, probably from sarin gas, in Damascus on August 21. Yes, the general population across the globe must rise up against Assad.

But would an attack on Syria now meet the conditions required for a just war? To meet those conditions, we need to balance the chances that an attack will protect people's lives in future against the possibility that intervention will escalate the conflict and lead only to greater killing.

Military leaders warn us that once we start a war, the effects are unforeseeable and can quickly become unmanageable. Can we truly say that the international community has exhausted all peaceful ways of bringing humanitarian and diplomatic pressure to bear on Damascus? Are we sure no innocent civilians will die in a military intervention?

President Obama's advocacy of war is anachronistic and runs the risk of responding to killings with more killings. By referring the issue to Congress, he has given himself space to act, as we would expect of a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and to exhaust all peaceful means of bringing an end to the suffering in Syria before considering a resort to war.

I lament in my prayers for the suffering of the people of Syria. I pray passionately that they will be given what we all desire for ourselves, namely security and peace. And I pray that President Obama will not go down in history as a leader who had the opportunity to broker peace but instead opted for war.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Making sense out of military action

As I was preparing for the message this Sunday (Psalm 3) I started to find some parallels between what I was thinking about in this Psalm and the current event of an impending attack on Syria. At the point of this writing, President Obama is seeking approval from Congress to authorize some limited military strikes against Syria for its use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians.  This plan has left many people in our nation, indeed all over the world, uncomfortable.  The situation in Syria is vast and complex and there are questions if whether either of the two sides in the engagement have the best interests of the people at the heart of their conflict.

Even though I find it ironic that now is the time the United States and possibly France plan to intervene (so its all right for thousands of people to die by conventional arms and millions more to flee, but its not all right to use chemical weapons to do so...What a humane people we are), I can not help but point out the failure of our policy in this nation nor of the ridiculous nature of the intended strikes to "kill some people so that they won't kill any more people anymore." 

My experience as a Christian reminds me that all of us have been created in the image of God.  To take the life of another human being is to destroy a part of God's creation- an image that points us towards the Divine.  While I understand the desire to preserve human life, I mourn the fact that this preservation must cost other human life.  These proposed military strikes are not to bring about success, they are to prevent us from failing further in our desire to save lives.  I have hope that the hesitancy displayed by so many people across the world has more to do with this valuation of human life than it does the muddled political scene in Syria.

This week I have been preparing a message on Psalm 3- a psalm possibly composed by David as he fled from Absalom.  One of the interesting aspects of this Psalm lies with the trust that David places in God for deliverance.  As I pondered this idea I was drawn to other Old Testament passages where God makes a point to remind the children of Israel that it is not by the power of their military presence, but by their faith and trust in the Lord their God, that they are able to persevere and achieve victory over their enemies.  Military victory does not lead one to success.  It is faith, hope, trust in God as Sovereign that does.

Do I oppose strikes in Syria to remove their chemical weapon arsenal?  Not in that sense.  But I do oppose the taking of human life that will be a part of such a strike and see the two as being integrally connected.  Do I understand the desire to remove indiscriminate tools for destruction from the hands of unscrupulous people?  Absolutely.  The strikes that appear to be more and more likely represent to me a failure of our ability to peacefully solve our differences.

Here is the other issue with this military solution:  It does not really solve the problem.  There will still be civil war in Syria.  The conflict will continue due to the religious and political differences along lines very few people completely understand.  In some of our most recent involvement in the wider global area we have learned that military conquest leads us to the very beginning of some long seeded problems within these nations.  Not only do we fail to resolve the crisis, but often seem to exaggerate some of the already existent conditions (Anyone else uncomfortable with the fact that we might be providing terrorists with small arms inside Syria?). 

Until we commit to providing more than military interference, we do the people of Syria and our nation a dis-service by working on a solution to the symptom of a problem, instead of the cause.