Letter to local press about Syria
Quakers in Britain, in common with several other denominational bodies, have urged a non-violent response to the crisis in Syria.
They have also welcomed the clear decision of the UK parliament to reject military intervention.
As the world waits for the decision of the US Congress, Bury Quakers, believing that there is a responsibility for all people of good faith to keep the conversation alive, wish to urge debate on consideration of courses of action which we might present to our MPs. Some commentators are claiming that no military action means no action of any kind and that we have “washed our hands of the suffering of the Syrian people.” We wish to counter this view.
Some immediate actions which could be taken include:
- A regional conference to search for political and diplomatic solutions which would come from the Middle East and not be imposed by the larger power blocs
- The engagement of Russia and Iran. This will inevitably involve difficulties and compromises — are we willing to accept this and work for a just peace in which others’ interests are considered? If political rather than military solutions are to be reached, we will have to talk with people we may not like very much.
- The activation of the International Criminal Court in relation to war crimes and atrocities committed both by the Syrian government and by armed opposition groups.
- A co-ordinated programme of relief for refugees.
In the longer term, a debate on de-militarisation is essential, as is close scrutiny of the UK’s policy on arms sales. The idea that countries with the greatest military power should continue to be the world’s unsidputed moral arbiters and police must be questioned and radical reform of international institutions and processes considered.
Ron Sider of Christian Peacemaker Teams has asked: “What would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline and self-sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war?” We believe that question is not just for Christians, but for all people. We may perhaps begin to answer it by examining the political, military and economic structures we build and inhabit.
It is a conversation for us all. This is not the time to sit back.