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Faith Leaders to Congress: Vote No on Syria Strikes
September 10, 2013

Faith Leaders to Congress: Vote No on Syria Strikes
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.

Sincerely,

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


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Jesuit Refugee Service in Syria