I am not an isolationist. We belong to each other, of course, we do. The people of Syria are our people. This vicious civil war has been going on since spring 2011 and Syria’s children dying horrific deaths, her activists have been murdered, more than 100,000 of her people have been killed, some of them with the neuro-toxins of chemical warfare, and there are 2 million – million! – refugees.
Who could isolate themselves from such suffering? Who would turn away from such evil?
And yet I am absolutely against any military intervention in Syria.
Bombing Syria will not solve a single thing in this conflict and it will bear repercussions for decades. Precedent has been set by other conflicts, particularly in the Middle East, that bombings are not strategic and military intervention will not fix anything, particularly over the long term.
There are many logistical, political, reasonable, legal, and just-plain-common-sense reasons for our nations to avoid bombing or military action in Syria. (Check out questions 6 & 7 in this article at the Washington Post, 9 Questions About Syria You Were Too Embarrassed to Ask)
But beyond the obvious and well-documented reasons and precedents to avoid military conflict in the Middle East again, let me add this reminder:
Redemptive violence is a myth.
In the same way that I want to be a feminist in the way that I believe Jesus would be a feminist, I want to engage with world conflict in the way I believe Jesus would engage with world conflict. I believe that followers of Jesus should never be the ones calling out for war or bombings or violence of any kind. Violence is evil, and partaking in violence will never bring about real or lasting peace. Each side in this conflict believes they are in the right and it’s clear there is no “good guy” here. Violence continues and spirals and worsens and there is no redemption in sight. Why would we contribute to that evil in any way?
We sow the wind, as the prophet Hosea warned, and then we are surprised when we reap the whirlwind.
As followers of Jesus, we are meant to live the ways of our Saviour into every corner of our existence. In this instance, I support and engage with efforts advocating for immediate care of refugees, worldwide diplomatic pressure and dialogue, particularly with Syria’s neighbours and allies, and a strong commitment to the practice of non-violence. We should be the voices and hands of peace making in our world. Walter Wink calls this “the third way” – the action alternative from military intervention and isolationism.
Non-violence isn’t passive: it’s active and hard and real. It’s a discipline and it subverts violence with radical peace-making.
Disciples of Jesus are meant to live as ambassadors and signs of God’s shalom. Peace-making is not for the faint of heart and it is the prophetic call of the believer.
We must pursue the third way – not passive and yet not violent, this is the way of the peace maker.
Go on and write or call or email your government to make sure your voice is heard.
Go on and give money NGOs and ministries working to relieve suffering, particularly for refugees, and to end conflict within Syria.
Go on and become active in the refugee community of our city.
Go on and speak up in your community and take the side of peace making.
Go on and sign petitions or participate in peaceful protest.
Go on and educate yourself.
And go on and pray – with your voices, your spirits, your bodies – for peace.