|A child looks at his his neighborhood, destroyed in Syria's on-going conflict. (Jesuit Refugee Service)|
|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.|
(Washington, D.C.) September 10, 2013 — Fr. Thomas H. Smolich, S.J., President of the Jesuit Conference of the United States and a member of the Board of Directors of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, joined 40 other faith leaders from national Christian, Jewish, and Muslim organizations urging Congress to oppose the proposed authorization for the use of military force in Syria.
Along with the Jewish and Muslim faiths represented, the signers include leaders from Catholic, Evangelical, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, Adventist, and Baptist traditions, in addition to leaders from the historic peace church traditions of the Quakers, Mennonites, and Church of the Brethren.
The letter is reproduced below.
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 Adventist Peace Fellowship
Founder and Executive Director
American Muslim Voice
American Friends Service Committee
Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America
Carmelite Friars Province of the Most Pure Heart of Mary
Carmelite Friars Province of St. Elias
Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rev. Joel Boot
Christian Reformed Church in North America
Stanley J. Noffsinger
Church of the Brethren
Very Rev. John Edmunds, ST
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Rev. Allison Sandlin Liles
Interim Executive Director
Episcopal Peace Fellowship
Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, D.D.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Paul Alexander, PhD
Evangelicals for Social Action
Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice
Rev. Kristin Stoneking
Fellowship of Reconciliation
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Rev. Julia Brown Karimu & Rev. Dr. James Moos
Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ
and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Fr. Thomas H. Smolich, S.J.
Jesuit Conference of the United States
Jewish Peace Fellowship
Jewish Voice for Peace
Rabbi Brant Rosen and Alissa Wise
Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council
Carol Zinn, SSJ
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Fr. Martin A. Solma, Sm
Marianist Province of the USA
Gerry G. Lee
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
J Ron Byler
Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
Rev. Dr. Diana C. Gibson
Founder & Convener
Multifaith Voices for Peace & Justice
Simone Campbell, SSS
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Rabbi Michael Lerner
The Network of Spiritual Progressives
On Earth Peace
Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service
Pax Christi International
Rick Love, Ph.D.
Peace Catalyst International
Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Rabbi Arthur Waskow
The Shalom Center
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence
Sister Pat McDermott
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Rev. Beau Underwood
Director of Campaigns and Advocacy
The Rev. Geoffrey Black
General Minister and President
The United Church of Christ
Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
Bishop Mary Ann Swenson
Ecumenical Officer, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
Jesuit Refugee Service in Syria