Sunday, September 8, 2013

10 Things We Can Do Right Now About Syria Besides Bombing - Chicago Theological Seminary


Posted: September 06th, 2013 (Posted on Chicago Theological Seminary Website) 

By Dr. Susan Thistlethwaite
President Obama is working the phones, pushing Congress to support his plan for missile strikes on Syria.  Secretary Kerry has warned of the risks of not bombing and characterized that option as “doing nothing.”  
Nicolas Kristof, in the New York Times, asks,  “Are the risks greater if we launch missiles, or if we continue to sit on our hands?”

Not bombing is not the same as “doing nothing,” nor is it continuing to “sit on our hands” when a proactive peacemaking plan is in place and consistently followed.

President Obama, in several addresses including his Nobel Peace Prize speech and his May, 2013 address on drones at the National Defense University, has specifically named the practices of the proactive peacemaking strategy called Just Peace as essential to keeping the U.S. secure.  As the president said in May of this year, “force alone cannot make us safe.”

There is a good case to be made, in regard to bombing Syria, in fact, that using force will make us far less safe.  These missile strikes, if authorized and carried out, run the grave risk of setting off greater extremism both within Syria, and among the major players in the Middle East such as Iran and Saudi Arabia.  While the world is focusing on Syria, Iraq is increasingly violent. Using military force in this volatile and complex region could very likely trigger a global conflict.

Instead, here are 10 things we can do right now about Syria besides bombing.

1. Pray and do faith actions for peace:
My own denomination, the United Church of Christ, has explicitly called for prayer and peace advocacy regarding Syria. “As people of faith we call on our leaders to avoid any military intervention now. We call on them to use all diplomatic and humanitarian means at our disposal for a resolution to this crisis.”

Pope Francis has called for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, in the entire Mideast region, and throughout the whole world on Saturday, September 7th, 2013.
There are many such calls by people of faith today.

Prayer by diverse people of faith around the world is a powerful action being taken to strengthen the global will among citizens for peace.  It is they who will finally push their governments to drastically increase their efforts toward a political solution.

2. President Obama should immediately withdraw his request that Congress support military action, and instead call on that body to support a ceasefire resolution regarding Syria.
This kind of surprising, unilateral and “pre-emptive” peacemaking is one of the most creative of Just Peace practices. It is called “Take Independent Initiatives to Reduce Threat.”
By engaging in this independent initiative, President Obama could literally startle the Congress, the American people, and the world into peacemaking.

In the Just Peacemaking books we write about how effective this work of independent initiatives has been in the world history of successful peacemaking. Social psychologist Charles Osgood first introduced the concept of independent initiatives as a strategy on the level of international relations in 1962.

In situations of conflict and distrust between nations and international actors, this practice seeks to decrease the threat perception of one’s adversary and lower the level of distrust in the relationship. One side takes initiatives that are independent of the slow process of negotiations (although they are designed to elicit comparable initiatives in response from the other side). Independent initiatives need to be publicly announced and verified to show that they are not a ploy but genuine efforts to work toward a peaceful settlement.

If the U.S. suddenly and unexpectedly called for a ceasefire in Syria instead of for military action, it would change the world dynamic on addressing this conflict. It would also set up other actions we could then take.

3. Bring the U.S. Ceasefire Resolution to the G20.
Following the lead of Congress in calling for an immediate ceasefire, the President should follow that with a request to the G20 to support an immediate cease-fire on all sides in the Syrian conflict.  This would completely reverse the dynamic at that summit, where currently world leaders are pressuring President Obama  to decide against launching military strikes in Syria.

4. Work with the United Nations Secretary General in moving a ceasefire resolution through that body.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for a solution to the Syrian problem via political means: “Only political settlement, not armed conflict will return peace to the country and to save human lives.”  Throwing U.S. support behind the U.N. Secretary General would again create a dramatic reversal and halt the drive to war.

5. Push for the scheduling of the “Geneva 2″ summit on Syria.
Nations that do not support military action in Syria should push hard for the follow up meeting to the first discussion on “political transition” for Syria  that began in 2012.
The “Geneva 2” meeting would bring together key constituents, including the rebels and the regime. While this process, held under the auspices of the U.N., will surely be far from perfect, it offers the best chance towards a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

6. Provide more help for refugees in camps.
In her article on “Three big ways the U.S. could help Syrians without using the military,”Lydia DePillis calls for more aid for those in these camps, especially mental health care.  There are Syrians right now who can be helped right now in this humanitarian crisis without using bombs.

7. Accept Syrian refugees as immigrants.
This week, Sweden became the first European Union country to grant asylum to all Syrian Refugees who apply. “All Syrian asylum seekers who apply for asylum in Sweden will get it,” said Annie Hoernblad, the spokesperson for Sweden’s migration agency. “The agency made this decision now because it believes the violence in Syria will not end in the near future.”  The decision, which will give refugees permanent resident status, is valid until further notice it was announced.

If many other countries, including the U.S., followed suit, no one country would be over-burdened with a large number of immigrants who clearly will need lots of help to recover from the violence in their country.

8. Hold Bashar al-Assad personally accountable for his alleged war crimes.
Especially if there is a distinct lack of cooperation from Bashar al-Assad in regard to cooperating with a ceasefire and agreeing to the Geneva meeting, he should be indicted  in the International Criminal Court (ICC).  This would require support from the U.N. Security Council, but that move could be part of the overall ‘carrot and stick’ approach to finding practical alternatives to military action that particularly Russia has so far opposed.

9. Make a Just Peace plan and stick to it.
Peacemaking takes years.  There is a marked inconsistency in American foreign policy in regard to the Middle East in general; in a democracy, over several presidencies, some of this is inevitable.  But it is also the case that many have observed how reactive our policies have become during and after the Arab Spring.

Bombing looks like “doing something,” but as the war in Afghanistan is now America’s second longest war, after the Vietnam war, we might learn something from the fact that military action is not at all quick and effective.

Military action is most often deadly, lengthy, expensive, and creates the resentments that simply set up the conditions that lead to the next war.

10. Pray for peace and act wisely to bring it about.


Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is Professor of Theology and immediate past President of Chicago Theological Seminary.  She is one of the architects of the Just Peace paradigm, and the author and editor of Interfaith Just Peacemaking: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on the New Paradigm of Peace and War.

10 Things We Can Do Right Now About Syria Besides Bombing - Chicago Theological Seminary

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Yes for Action in Syria, President Obama!



By: Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz, PhD


We have heard through the media that the only reason that the American people have to attack Syria and President Assad is so that the USA does not loose face in front of the world community.  We acknowledge that something terribly wrong has occurred in the House of Syria that has caused fear, tension and even death. Many people have run away and are currently in refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

The American people realize that when you see an injustice committed, if you don’t act, you are as criminal as the person committing the injustice.  The American people are tired of war or scared to act, that is part of the individualistic nature of this society, in part ignorance about international affairs, and even worse, lack of faith in the God that constructed this nation. My dear brethren this is not about whether Obama is right or wrong, or whether is best to stand in the sideline without acting, or even yet to cite the laws, both national and international, so that no action takes place.

We have one way to win. We can pray to God to give us wisdom to develop loving ways whereby we don’t destroy the world ecology through destructive actions. Let us all adhere and commit ourselves to the tenets of “Do no harm”. 

The United States can continue to be the number one nation, and the best neighbor, President Obama will be applauded for his humanitarian initiatives, and the American people will not have a need to be scared.  Let us begin a dialogue about what strategies to move forward that will prevent ecological, psychosocial, and spiritual ecological balance. Let us become the number one humanitarian country and take important initiatives to assist the Syrian brethren.  Some of these initiatives may include:

1.     Instead of missiles, re-route our stocks to provide shelter, food, water and safety to all refugees. According to the news reports, there are over 2 million Syrian refugees in the neighboring countries. Many of them are desperate for appropriate assistance.
2.     Instead of war ships, let us send the Hospital ship, and begin to provide medical care to those that are most in need. Hundreds of sick and wounded are struggling both in country and in refugee camps.
3.     Instead of weapons to the rebels, let us provide subsidies to the receiving nations, and teach the immigrants how to care for themselves through agricultural and educational programs.
4.     Instead of fear among children, let us build schools for boys and girls and turn this diaspora into an experience of learning and a march of hope. We know from experience when children are forced to live in refugee camps, they have lesser educational and developmental opportunities.

These is a simple proposition with just four broad examples, that will make the United States a country of action, care, and an exemplar of hope. It will defuse the anger amongst the population within the United States and the Middle East.  The ultimate goal is to provide a humanitarian action through peaceful actions that will enhance well-being and resilience for the Syrian people.  What is in it for us in the United States? Maybe new, kinder, and peaceful ways, of addressing the internal needs of our country, and a kinder environment for all Americans and foreigners alike.  Less destruction more construction, less percussion, more tolerance.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, because they will be called the children of God”

Pearls of Wisdom from Mother Teresa


Courtesy Facebook

Monday, September 2, 2013

THERE IS A SILVER LINING to the CLOUD OF UNCERTAINTY LIES OVER SYRIA BETTER DAYS ARE AHEAD


Joseph O. Prewitt Díaz, PhD
September 2, 2013

All the posturing, threats, consultation, and television reports of the last 48 hours may seem that Syria is under a threat of attack, as a result of the inappropriate actions of President Assad and other groups, exposing non-combatant population to sarin gas. Many countries in the world have sat on the sidelines as expectator, amongst them United States, Rusia, and China, while over 100,000 people have been killed and another 1 million forced to exile either in Lebanon, Jordan, or Turkey. President Obama spoke out of anger and those words committed the United States to take action. We suggest that after all the consultation, he decides for peaceful ways to alleviate suffering amongst non-combatants.

This strategies may include providing medical treatment, providing food, water and shelter, and alleviating suffering for women, children and the elderly, through safe spaces outside of the borders of Syria.  Approaching President Assad through the United Nations or through third parties or countries that may include consultation and mentoring, helping President Assad how to get back on the straight and narrow and mend his ways with positive actions (less killing, more reconciliation).

Many people realized that the words in Jeremiah’s prediction were coming to fruition.  The prophet shares his vision: “Damascus has become feeble, she turned to flee, and panic seized her; anguish and sorrows have taken hold of her, of a woman in labor.  How is the famous city not forsaken, the city of my joy? Therefore her young men shall fall in her squares, and all her soldiers shall be destroyed in that day, declares the Lord of hosts.  And I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus, and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad.”(Jer 49:23-27).

After bad days when the governors come to their senses and atone for their crimes, there will be days of reconstruction, reconciliation and peace. A gospel of peace will reign in Syria. The times will be different: it will not be necessary to resist the bad, but rather share what little you have left, if someone asks you to walk a mile, walk two miles, who ever asks, to him or her you give of what you have. Love your enemies and oppressors, bless those that curse you, do good deeds even to does that are from different group, pray for those that have raped and pilfered from you (Mat 5:39-45).

Peace requires level headedness, and inner peace. If you are patient you will exude patience. If you are loving you will exude love, If you are calm you will exude calmness. It will be up to the common man and woman that have survived from these times of war to become ambassadors of peace.   “Blessed are the peacemakers because they will be called the children of God” (Mat. 5:9)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

SE NECESITA UN EVANGELIO DE PAZ EN SIRIA

By Joseph O. Prewitt Díaz
1 de septiembre 2013

Todo lo que ocurre sobre la fas de la tierra es parte del gran plan magistral de Nuestro Señor su Hijo Jesucristo, quien con su sangre compro mi salvación y el espíritu Santo. En momentos de confusión e injusticia, el mundo se pone tenso y los gobiernos comienzan a buscar formas de calmar al pueblo. Nosotros sabemos lo que esta ocurriendo, por las noticias que nos provee la Palabra. Es nuestra responsabilidad convertirnos en pacificadores. Ante tan gran cataclismo, orar para mantener la calma, y compartir con todos, no importa su tono o acción: “Sea la paz”.

En estos momentos se desmaya Damasco, todos huyen por la violencia sistemática del Presidente Assad y sus secuaces. Los emigrantes a cruzar la frontera hacia Jordán, Líbano y Turquía tiemblan de horror, la angustia los agobia. Se siente el dolor de los recién llegados, como si fueran los dolores una mujer que esta de parto (Jeremías 50:24).

Damasco cuidad alabada, es testigo de los jóvenes muertos en las plazas, las mujeres los niños y niñas y los ancianos y ancianas victimizados por el gas Sarín, que aparece silenciosamente tronchando la vida de los no-combatientes. Ahí que prestar atención a Jeremías (50: 23-27) cuando advierte a sus gobernantes de la furia de Dios, cuando baje del cielo fuego que queme los muros en derredor a la ciudad y destruya el palacio presidencial.

Ahí que pedirle cuentas al Presidente Assad. Con la esperanza de que traiga el apresto, la Palabra de Cristo en su corazón, donde el Presidente Assad y sus seguidores, sientan espiritualmente una irradiación divina de paz porque lo interno de ellos, que es lo que vale para Cristo, tiene paz. (Efesios 6:15)

Jesucristo se manifiesta ante la situación con un evangelio de paz. Estos días son muy interesantes los países que tradicionalmente son aliados se confrontan con la definición de una manera de ayudar a los no-combatientes en Siria. Cuando se han enfrentado a esta situación con una perspectiva de paz, se comienzan a definir soluciones pacificas, la inquietud se reduce, ahí que tomar tiempo para llegar a una lista de posibles acciones. Porque su no tienen paz en las jornadas de deliberación tampoco tendrán la victoria.

Inglaterra ha decidido no atacar, el Presidente de los Estados Unidos esta reconsiderando su postura y ha comenzado una consulta. Australia se abstiene de atacar a Siria.

En lo que concierne a nosotros, como hijos e hijas de Dios, amantes de la paz debemos siempre estar consientes, que Jesucristo nos instruye a amar a nuestros enemigos, a bendecir a los que nos maldicen, y haced bien a los que nos aborrecen (Mateo 5:44).

Debemos seguir vigilantes y orar por los habitantes de Siria y por sus gobernantes. El espíritu de Jehova el Señor esta sobre la población. Confiamos en que llegara la restauración a las ciudades arruinadas (Isaías 61:4)


Escuchamos sobre los estruendos de los cañones, misiles y propaganda soez a Jesucristo diciendo “Bienaventurado los pacificadores porque ellos serán llamados hijos de Dios”. (Mateo 5:9)

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