I am on the steering committee of a grassroots organization in the Bay Area and was asked to work on a statement about the situation in Iraq with my friend, the Rev. Dr. Diana Gibson, who is currently teaching at Santa Clara University. As you can probably already guess, we are opposed to U.S. military intervention in Syria. This message is addressed to you, the people of America who have an opportunity to make your voices heard.

As people of faith from diverse traditions, Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice joins with a growing number of faith organizations and people of good will around the globe in condemning chemical weapons use in Syria or anywhere, and insisting that the world community, in particular our own United States government, respond to this tragedy using diplomatic and political tools, not military intervention. We implore Congress to refuse to authorize any military action against Syria. Bombing and killing Syrians to send a message that bombing and killing Syrians is wrong makes absolutely no sense.

U.S. military interventions in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan over the last 60 years make it clear that war as a solution to world problems is not the answer. By denying the president the authority to use military force against Syria, the United States Congress could bring us one step closer to the end of senseless war.

If the Syrian government did, in fact, use chemical weapons against its own people, the world has tools available to respond to that heinous act. The United Nations should call on the International Criminal Court to investigate all parties that may be using chemical weapons or committing crimes against humanity in Syria. The U.S. should convene a meeting of the 189 signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention so that they can collectively decide how to respond as called for in the terms of the treaty. Meanwhile, our House and Senate should pass pending bipartisan legislation prohibiting military aid to Syria. Crimes against humanity and those who commit them can, are, and must be justly dealt with in courts of law. Bombs, no matter how precisely targeted, do not have the power of juries and judges to differentiate between innocent and guilty.

In preparation for the upcoming Jewish Holy Days, Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center writes that during Rosh Hashanah we are to “plead with God – which means also with ourselves – to move from the throne of Punitive Justice to the throne of Compassionate Repair.”

Drop gas masks, not bombs,” is the metaphor Waskow proposes. Translated, he means, “use the power of the U.S. in nonviolent, non-military, nonlethal ways to counter Assad’s (or the rebels’) possible use of chemical weapons.”

Pope Francis has also addressed the situation in Syria. “I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from the deep within me. How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed! … Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.”

Francis announced that Saturday, Sept. 7, in St. Peter’s Square, “we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace!”

In addition, the Roman Catholic Fides news agency reported that the Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badreddin Hassou, the spiritual leader of Sunni Islam in Syria, expressed his desire to join the Pope in this prayer.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation states, “The world community needs to act forcefully to bring those responsible for using chemical weapons – anyone who commits war crime – to justice. But U.S. military action will hurt more than help, increasing violence and risk of more chemical weapons attacks. There is a nonviolent path forward in Syria.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is also calling for restraint, urging, “Diplomacy should be given a chance and peace given a chance. It is important that all differences of opinion should be solved through peaceful means and through dialogue.”

Now President Obama has given each member of Congress an historic opportunity to stand up and be counted. Each representative and senator needs to hear from us, the American people, to let them know that once and for all we reject the indiscriminate killing of innocents in response to the killing of innocents.

This is our historic opportunity to make our voices heard. Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice urges you to contact your senators and representatives today.


Craig Wiesner is co-founder of Reach And Teach, the peace and social justice learning company, and is on the steering committee for Multifaith Voices for Peace And Justice. Reach And Teach also manages web operations for Tikkun.

The Rev. Dr. Diana Gibson is a lecturer at Santa Clara University in the Department of Religious Studies. She is the coordinator of Multifaith Voices for Peace and Justice and is the former co-director of the Santa Clara County Council of Churches.

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