The Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) issued a statement today (August 30) in the wake of the escalating violence in Syria, calling upon U.S. and world leaders to refrain from military action.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
We are deeply concerned about events in Syria. We grieve for our brothers and sisters who have suffered so deeply for so long. We yearn for an end to the bloodshed and renew our call for a cease-fire and a mediated process involving all parties to provide new choices for all Syrians.
We condemn the use of chemical weapons. Regardless of who perpetrated the attack, such a usage violates a longstanding international norm. We recognize the authority and the responsibility of the United Nations Security Council to deal with this violation of international law. We call all nations to encourage the Security Council to address this illegal and immoral act. We do not doubt that justice is needed, but question the unilateral and inevitably selective role the United States has too often played, too often leading to greater violence, terrorism, and instability.
We call upon the President and the members of Congress to follow the example of other strong leaders in the past by exercising the courage and wisdom to refrain from military action that is likely to escalate the conflict further, and to bring our country directly into another war in the Middle East.
We applaud the President’s efforts to consult widely, conferring with international leaders and with Congress. Now we ask him to spend time over this holiday weekend listening to what Americans want and fear.
Now is not the time to feed the violence and instability that has claimed the lives of over 100,000 Syrians, driven 3.4 million Syrians from their country, and displaced an additional 6.8 million Syrians from their homes. Most people affected by the conflict are noncombatants. Expanding the conflict will increase the suffering of the innocent.
Now is the time to heed the voices of our church partners who pray and call and work for peace. Our partners look to us to challenge policies of our government that help to fuel conflict in Syria and proxy wars across the Middle East.
Now is the time to reflect on the lessons of 12 years of involvement in conflict in the Middle East by the United States. Limited engagement is never truly limited.
Now is the time to support the peacemakers of Syria who seek to end the violence and build a future. In any Congressional deliberations, we urge that nonviolent forms of intervention be considered, and that next steps beyond military force be grounded in defensible cooperative goals for the region.
Now is the time for all outside parties to cease all forms of military intervention in Syria. States and and non-state actors must stop feeding the conflict in Syria by sending weapons to the government and to opposition forces.
Now is the time to renew the efforts for a diplomatic solution. The United States must work with the United Nations and other governments to contain the violence, restore stability in the region, provide humanitarian assistance, and encourage the building of an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens.
Now—in the grimmest of situations—is the time to build a coalition of nations and peoples willing to do the long, hard, and essential work of establishing interfaith relationships of respect and understanding.
Now—for Syria and all its neighbors—is the time to seek a new vision of cooperation and nonviolence that will support an intervention with the power of impartial justice that will lead to a just and lasting peace.
Now is the time to pray for wisdom for leaders, for courage to turn from violence, for grace to build and nurture relationships, for justice to roll down like waters, and for peace to prevail in Syria.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” For the people of Syria, may it now be a time for peace.