Last week I told you about my new project about an approach to peacemaking in our churches based on principles of pacifism and non-violence. When I began in June, there were no major international conflicts on the horizon that North America was particularly paying attention to, but I recognized from the beginning the insular, self-indulgent risk of losing the ultimate goals of pacifism in my tiny world of Churchland.
The roots of the violence in our churches and on an international scale are the same, and we can not deal with the violent roots of our society while not dealing with our own relationship with redemptive violence. That being said, we do not get to simply go into therapy to deal with that without being engaged in resisting the violence we are drawn into and are a part of on an international scale.
Non-violent resistance calls us to creative ways to stop violence. A great little read is Jesus and Non-Violence: A Third Way by Walter Wink. I started it when I boarded the plane in New Jersey coming home from Unco and finished it when we hit our cruising altitude. As human beings, our natural response to a threat is “fight or flight”. Obviously, for a pacifist, to fight with physical force is not an option, but neither is flight. In fact, as North Americans, this is our most common stance (pro-military folks settle down). More often, we turn away so we do not have to see pain and brutality of our world, not until it comes to us in gruesome detail in mural sized HD. We fled from the 120,000 deaths caused by Syria’s civil war, and the young people who started the revolution against Bashar-Al-Assad in the first place. We hide from the 5.4 million who have died in the conflict in the Congo in the past 9 years (based on conflict over minerals which are necessary to power our bloated appetite for technology). We may not physically be running, but we are changing the channel to protect ourselves from the pain which may compel us to act.
Jesus did not fight, and he did not run. It can not be said he simply gave up. At every point along his journey to the cross, he drew attention to the hatred, apathy, fear, greed, power-mongering and oppression that the people of Jerusalem would not face. In his victory he did not kill a single person (well, a theological argument could be made for Judas), in fact, he chose healing over violent resistance.
Whether or not you agree with the motivation behind the positions to intervene in Syria, we have a moment when North Americans are paying attention. There have been many protests against a military strike, most likely stemming from a reluctance to enter into another Iraq like, confused, expensive conflict. And, of course, that beautifully humorous moment when John Kerry said, “Well, Al-Assad could hand over his entire weapons supply…but, of course, he won’t” and Al-Assad said, “OK”. We can be suspicious, but let’s just delight in the diplomacy while we can.
And there is more. There must be more. Can we imagine a third way in Syria?
A challenge to you. What other options can we call for that do not fall into the categories of fight or flight?
Here are some of mine:
- Understand that this began as a revolution: There is a dictator, and there are rebels. This civil war began because young people wanted a better life for themselves. They wanted peace, equality and democracy. As sometimes (but not often) happens with a revolution, the extremists found a foothold. Do the original organizations still exist? Can our governments support them in their grassroots work?
- If the United States of America is so concerned with crimes of war, then become members of the International Criminal Court. Use a transparent, respected tool of justice to hold Al-Assad and the rebels accountable.
- Open our borders to Syrian refugees: This is not only compassionate, but strategic. A dictator has little power with a declining population. Sweden has done it. While the leaders are in Geneva discussing how to remove (but not destroy, that’s too complicated, apparently) Syria’s chemical weapons, how about bringing along a high school student with some bristol board and some markers who can figure out where Syrian refugees can go. 2.1 million refugees have fled the country and 6.8 million are displaced within the country. By the end of 2013 the UNHCR projects over 10 million refugees will be displaced. We have a big world, folks. Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming. Let’s invite some folks in.
- Take the up to $30,000 per flight hour of a drone attack and give it to countries housing Syrian refugee camps. Lebanon has taken in over 750,000 refugees into their population of just over 4 million. They could use some help, don’t you think?
- Keep the diplomatic channels open. Put pressure on Syria’s allies and against military support for the rebels.
The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund along with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank are seeking donations to support refugees in Lebanon. You can donate here.
Also, a very “cool” youth led initiative from Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR) seeking sweaters as winter approaches.
You are brilliant. What else can we come up with?