Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Quaker Perspective on the Possibility of U.S. Strikes in Syria

Every Sunday I gather together with a group of children to discuss the Quaker testimonies-- simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship. These testimonies arise out of a deep, inner conviction and often challenge our usual ways of living. In our First Day School classroom we search for the ways in which the testimonies can become true for ourselves. 

The Sunday following President Barack Obama’s announcement to seek congressional approval for a strike on Syria, I brought the children into the main meeting just as somebody had risen to speak about the current situation. It struck me that as a Quaker, living these testimonies often becomes political. When one of the children asked me about Syria after meeting, I told her that there had been an extreme civil conflict going for more than two years and that many people were losing their homes and being killed. She asked me, “Why would America choose to destroy even more instead of trying to help?”

This simple question is one that our government is failing to ask themselves. The brutal chemical attack that took place in Syria should be unequivocally condemned for the same reason that we need to condemn the use of military strikes. These strikes would merely serve to continue the indiscriminate killing of civilians in addition to becoming yet another violation of international humanitarian law. A military response would only perpetuate further hatred and division in Syria.

It is essential for all who align themselves with a commitment to peace and justice, Quakers and non-Quakers alike, to be true to our principals as we strive to seek a non-violent resolution to the conflict in Syria. In this way I see the Quaker peace testimony inherently supporting a political settlement rather than an increase in military violence. A non-violent solution that fosters local diplomatic efforts will not be easy by any means but outside forces cannot be permitted to impose their own agendas. The path to long-term reconciliation lies in international humanitarian support for a nonviolent effort led by Syrians themselves to achieve freedom, equality, and peaceful co-existence.

This concept could easily be dismissed as overly-idealistic but I propose it out of the same deep, inner conviction that living the Quaker peace testimony in my daily life brings out in me. The children who sit with me on Sundays, seeking the answers to the myriad complications of our world, have wisdom far beyond their years. For them, the idea of U.S. military intervention to provide help for rebel forces in Syria is entirely nonsensical. It draws a blank stare. Why would we choose to destroy even more?

Louisa (Lulu) Dewey is an incoming undergraduate student at UC Berkeley and an intern at NAPF.

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