Responding to the crisis in Syria

by Rachelle Lyndaker SchlabachRLS

“My husband and I saved our money for 10 years to buy an apartment. We finally bought it last year. Now it is completely destroyed.” Sumaya, a young mother of four, shared her story in January in Amman, Jordan, where she had fled from the fighting taking place in her home country of Syria. Her family of six now lives in a one-room apartment. Sumaya asked that only her first name be used.

Mennonite Central Committee is committed to responding to the needs of refugees like Sumaya through our Middle East Crisis Response. Another important way to respond to the crisis is by contacting your members of Congress to ask for the following:

The U.S. should respond generously to the humanitarian crisis. Sumaya’s story is just one of thousands. Many Syrians have already moved multiple times to avoid the fighting. An estimated 2 million Syrians are displaced within the country, many of them in need of basic items such as food and heating fuel. Another 700,000 Syrians have fled to the surrounding countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. While they have been, for the most part, hospitably welcomed, this incredible influx of refugees is creating a strain on the local economies. (Read more.) The international community has pledged $1.5 billion in humanitarian assistance, in response to an appeal by the United Nations unprecedented in size. The U.S. is currently the largest donor, contributing $385 million. Unfortunately the needs are increasing exponentially, so it is important that the international community continues their response.

The U.S. must not seek to resolve the conflict militarily. It is understandable that U.S. politicians want to “do something” to help Syrians. But arming opposition forces or supporting allies who are doing so will only inflame the conflict more. Weapons that enter the country now will remain there long after the civil war ends. In addition, the conflict in Syria is far more complex than how it is usually portrayed in the U.S. media, as a non-violent democratic movement resisting a brutal dictator. Members of the opposition forces and the Syrian army all contribute to the violence and destruction. And “the opposition” is in reality multiple, disparate groups, each with their own agenda, with an increasing number of foreign fighters. Rather than dividing the conflict into “good guys” and “bad guys,” most Syrians just want the fighting to stop, so that they can rebuild what is left of their lives.

The U.S. should support a political solution that ensures the rights of all Syrians, including minorities. While much of the international community is focused on Assad stepping down, there is not as much attention on what will happen if he eventually does. Many Syrians are concerned that Islamist extremist groups, who are increasingly present among the opposition, could play a significant role in shaping the new Syria. The U.S. and its allies in the region must make clear that the rights of all Syrians must be protected and upheld.

Pray for the people of Syria, contact your Member of Congress and give to MCC’s Middle East Crisis Response today.

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