Fueling the war in Syria

by Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach RLS

“Frankly, I’m surprised to hear you don’t want the U.S. to send weapons [to the Syrian opposition],” a Senate staffer recently told a group of Syrian civil society leaders who visited her office.

The Syrians responded by describing how they are working nonviolently within their communities to end the brutal civil war that has been going on for more than two years.  They pointed out that increasing the violence will not solve any concerns and will only create more pain. They said the brunt of the violence is borne by civilians, not political or military leaders. And each person killed by a bullet leaves behind a family who will be affected for years to come.

Despite the group’s pleas for the U.S. to put its energies toward a nonviolent, political solution to the crisis, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 15-3 on May 21 to authorize sending arms to the Syrian rebels. Senators Paul (R-KY), Sen. Udall (D-NM) and Sen. Murphy (D-CT) voiced concerns and voted against the bill.

Many on the committee who voted to send arms said they simply could not sit on their hands and do nothing while such violence takes place. The desire to stop violence is commendable. But adding fuel to a fire—by sending weapons into an already-violent situation—is not a good way to put the fire out.

Rather than seeing the only two options as standing idly by or sending arms, as followers of Jesus we can help policymakers think more creatively. We can express solidarity with courageous Syrians working for peace by supporting Mennonite Central Committee’s Middle East Crisis Response. We can also urge Congress not to further inflame the war but rather to work urgently toward a political solution to the crisis and to respond generously to the humanitarian needs created by the war.

The Senate staffer mentioned above expressed skepticism that the courageous work for peace being done by activists in communities across Syria could somehow bring about an end to the war. “It is good work,” she said. “But how does it have any relevance to what political and military leaders are doing?” Policymakers need to hear from people of faith that this is, in fact, the way in which peace is realized—it cannot come from the barrel of a gun.

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