Last week, on April 4, we began to see images of Syrian children and adults in agony from the illegal chemical weapon sarin that was dropped by the Assad regime on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province. Then, two days later, Trump ordered an airstrike against a Syrian air base without congressional approval.
With Presbyterians and people around the United States and the world, PPF condemns these attacks. This act of war and aggression by the United States goes against our faith and our Presbyterian values, and it does not make us or Syrians safer. In June, the 222nd General Assembly of the PC(USA) passed the Five Peacemaking Affirmations, which includes the following statement:
We place our faith, hope, and trust in God alone. We renounce violence as a means to further selfish national interests, to procure wealth, or to dominate others. We will practice boldly the things that make for peace and look for the day when ‘they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.’
No one denies that something must be done in Syria. The chemical attacks in Idlib are horrific, as were the attacks in Ghouta in 2013 and in other Syrian towns, as is the barrel-bombing that occurs almost daily and the imprisonment and torture of political figures by the Assad regime. Assad’s regime is not the only one at fault, but violence by ISIS, Russia, the United States, and other groups has also been responsible for civilian deaths. All of these groups together have killed or injured almost 11% of the population over the last six years, and millions have fled as refugees and millions more are internally displaced.
However, continued violence in Syria will not bring peace, and it is a lie of empire to say that it will. As we continue moving through Holy Week toward Good Friday, we recognize the face of the crucified Christ in the faces of the Syrians who have been killed in the violence of the last six years, and we say “no more!”
It is not up to those of us who are citizens of the United States to determine how to bring about peace or what that peace should look like for Syria. That is for Syrians to determine, and it is our calling as as non-Syrian Christians to be in solidarity with Syrians by following their leadership, as Activist Council member Don Mead outlined in PPF’s “Confronting the Crisis in Syria: A Peace-Seeker’s Perspective.”
Solidarity with Syrians is more than a statement–it is a commitment to just peace: scaling up trauma healing, restorative justice, unarmed civilian protection, and transformative dialogue with all stakeholders involved in the conflict (as outlined in the interfaith “Call for an End to the War in Syria” to which PPF signs). Solidarity demands allowing Syrian refugees into the United States as an immediate response and working with European countries to provide humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees as well.
As Christians who continue to discern God’s call to be in solidarity with the Syrian people, we call upon the US government to stop bombing Syria. We condemn the airstrike last week, the death it caused, and the economic and political profit it brought to Trump. We call upon the Trump administration to cease attempts at blocking Syrian refugees from entering the United States and cease all acts of war against Syria. We call upon Presbyterian churches to embody our commitments to peacemaking and speak against war and further violence in Syria by our government.
We pray for a resurrection-story in Syria as we approach Easter, where life breaks through death, freedom through repression, and hope through despair.
What can you do?
Contact your representatives of Congress and the White House and tell them that, as a person of faith, you oppose the airstrike last week and any further acts of war against Syria and you support increasing the number of Syrian refugees allowed into the United States
Call 202-456-1111 to leave a message for the White House and mail a letter to The White House / 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW / Washington, D.C. 20500
Call 202-224-3121 or click here to find your representatives by your zip code
Pray for Syria and talk about the Christian calling to be peacemakers in your worship
Support Syrian refugees in your community. Get to know them and their stories.
Toolkit for people of faith: Holy Discontentment: Advocacy and Action for Syria
Webinar: “Syria Update and Options for Just Peacemaking” from the Global Day of Action and Prayer for Syria
Book: Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War by Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al-Shami