41 Faith Leaders Ask Congress to Vote No on Syria Strikes

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A coalition of 41 faith leaders, under the umbrella Quaker lobbying group The Friends Committee on National Legislation, have called on Congress to oppose the proposed authorization for the use of military force in Syria. By virtue of the alphabetical listing of signatories, the Adventist Peace Fellowship will be the first organization seen by those who read the letter.

Leaders from Catholic, Evangelical, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist traditions have also signed the statement, in addition to leaders from the historic peace church traditions of the Quakers, Mennonites, and Church of the Brethren. The Jewish and Muslim faiths are also represented.

CNN mentioned the letter in an article called Thousands Fasting and Praying for Peace in Syria.

The text of the letter follows:

September 9th, 2013

Dear Member of Congress,

As leaders of faith-based organizations, we are writing to urge you to vote against any authorization for the use of military force in Syria. While we unequivocally condemn any use of chemical weapons along with 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, U.S. military strikes threaten to widen the vicious civil war in Syria and undermine prospects to de-escalate the violence and eventually reach a just negotiated settlement, in which all actors are held accountable for crimes committed.

All of us recognize the challenge of the present moment in the midst of this ongoing tragedy. However, this is not a choice between military action and "doing nothing," a frame which again is being used to legitimate violence. Rather than yielding to the temptation to fuel the fire with more violence, we see an opportunity for the U.S. to leverage the full weight of its diplomatic influence and resources to advance a just, negotiated settlement that includes all internal and external parties to the conflict.

Therefore, we encourage Congress and the President to support the following actions:

1) Lead international diplomatic efforts to prevent further use of chemical weapons: Governments around the world—including Iran and Russia—have condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and the U.S. should work to direct this international resolve toward decisive diplomatic action.

2) De-escalate the violence: Refrain from providing military support to the opposition and press Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey to do the same, while continuing to call on Russia and Iran to cease military support for the Syrian government. Increasing violence in order to “punish,” "send a message," or gain military advantage, in fact makes negotiations less likely to result in a durable democracy, much less a just peace.

3) Pursue a political settlement with all stakeholders of the conflict: We must signal to the world the urgency of advancing a political settlement that seeks to end the violence and ensure accountability. Negotiations should include key civil society nonviolent actors and include determination of broader accountability mechanisms.

We urge you to oppose authorization for the use of military force in Syria and instead to consider seriously these alternatives. You are in our prayers.


[The complete list of signatories appears at the bottom of this article.]

The Seventh-day Adventist world church has not released any official statement on the situation in Syria. But you can read its historical statements on nonviolence and war, beginning in 1864, on the Adventist Peace Fellowship's website.

And last week, the British Union Conference released a statement called Syria: A Christian Response. It said this:

"With the humanitarian crisis growing by the day in Syria, Pastor Ian Sweeney, President of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the British Isles, has called on Christians to pray for the leaders currently involved in making difficult decisions in the region.

In a Hope TV video interview released on Wednesday, 4 September, he stated: "Peace is something that is best achieved in a peaceful way." He is a pacifist and represents a Church that traditionally takes a pacifist stance. "To use violence to achieve peace? I really don't think that is going to be successful."

Over two million refugees have escaped the violence into the surrounding countries of Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. The Christian minority in the country are finding themselves in a very difficult position caught between the government and the rebel fighters, not supporting either side. All citizens are watching closely the current high level debates on whether military action should be taken against the Assad regime in response to the chemical weapons attacks. Pastor Sweeney recognises that both as a human being and as a Church leader, that there are no easy answers.

"I'm praying for the leaders", he states. "I'm praying that they may be able to see the interests beyond self or whatever. I'm also praying that peace might also, somehow reign. And that's not only with the Assad government in Syria, but with the rebels as well."

Pastor Sweeney concludes, "The regime change that I am forever seeking is the regime change in my heart so that I bring peace: a) into my family, b) it extends into my community, and that I can extend it as far as my personal influence allows."

Watch the six minute interview on YouTube or on the Hope TV UK website."

For more information about the Syria conflict (and a slightly different viewpoint), try the Washington Post's 9 Questions about Syria You Were Too Embarassed to Ask.

The complete list of those who signed the September 9 letter to members of Congress appears below:

Ron Osborn Executive Director The Adventist Peace Fellowship

Samina Sundas Founder and Executive Director American Muslim Voice

Shan Cretin General Secretary American Friends Service Committee

Amaury Tañón-Santos President Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America

Carl Markelz O.Carm Carmelite Friars Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary

Mario Esposito O.Carm. Carmelite Friars Province of St. Elias

Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins General Minister and President Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Rev. Joel Boot Executive Director Christian Reformed Church in North America

Stanley J. Noffsinger General Secretary Church of the Brethren

Very Rev. John Edmunds, ST President Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Rev. Allison Sandlin Liles Interim Executive Director Episcopal Peace Fellowship

Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, D.D. Executive Director Global Mission Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Paul Alexander, PhD Co-President Evangelicals for Social Action Co-Founder Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice

Rev. Kristin Stoneking Executive Director Fellowship of Reconciliation

Diane Randall Executive Secretary Friends Committee on National Legislation

Rev. Julia Brown Karimu & Rev. Dr. James Moos Co-Executives Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Fr. Thomas H. Smolich, S.J. President Jesuit Conference of the United States

Stefan Merken Chair Jewish Peace Fellowship

Rebecca Vilkomerson Executive Director Jewish Voice for Peace

Rabbi Brant Rosen and Alissa Wise Co-Chairs Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council

Carol Zinn, SSJ President Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Fr. Martin A. Solma, Sm Provincial Marianist Province of the USA

Gerry G. Lee Director Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

J Ron Byler Executive Director Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

Rev. Dr. Diana C. Gibson Founder & Convener Multifaith Voices for Peace & Justice

Simone Campbell, SSS Executive Director NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Rabbi Michael Lerner Chair The Network of Spiritual Progressives

Bill Scheurer Executive Director On Earth Peace

Ken Butigan Executive Director Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service

Marie Dennis Co-President Pax Christi International

Rick Love, Ph.D. President Peace Catalyst International

Rev. Gradye Parsons Stated Clerk of the General Assembly Presbyterian Church (USA)

Rabbi Arthur Waskow Director The Shalom Center

Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb Cofounder Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence

Sister Pat McDermott President Sisters of Mercy of the Americas

Rev. Beau Underwood Director of Campaigns and Advocacy Sojourners

The Rev. Geoffrey Black General Minister and President The United Church of Christ

Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo Executive Minister United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Bishop Mary Ann Swenson Ecumenical Officer, Council of Bishops The United Methodist Church

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5500