A few weeks back I wrote that the time had ended to be silent about possible U.S. military strikes in Syria. I argued that there was, and is, a "humanitarian option," in Syria.
"Rather than missiles, now is time to fully utilize the diplomatic channels available to the United Nations," I said.
Happily, I wasn't alone. I heartily applaud President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry in their decision to forego a military option for the moment – though that option is still hovering in the background.
Let's hope it isn't used – a sentiment that many of our colleagues and friends have also embraced.
Earlier this week, a number of Christian leaders (from Syria, Russia, United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Turkey) met with Kofi Annan, former United Nations secretary-general, and Lakhdar Brahimi, Joint Representative for Syria, at the World Council of Church's Ecumenical Institute Center in Geneva to discuss ways the global church could help move all parties in the Syrian conflict toward a peace agreement.
Among those attending were several close friends of CWS -- Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger, the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, the WCC general secretary. Also attending were members of communions that have ties to our member communions, including a large presence of Orthodox churches.
Stan Noffsinger wrote that based on what he and others heard about the situation in Syria, "the conditions of life for the people of Syria are deplorable and terrifying.
"One colleague spoke of mortars shelling their neighborhood for hours on end, and as a church leader his phone rings all day and night to accompany members of his parish through their traumas of war."
But Stan and others also pointed out the need for American Christians to work alongside Syrian Christians so that we may "discover a solution for a lasting and sustainable peace."
A communiqué released after the meeting calls on churches to continue to raise our voices for the cause of peace.
"Now is the time to raise one voice for peace and work for a negotiated solution among all parties to the conflict. Blessed are the peacemakers, the Scriptures say. Churches must continue to raise their voice in their congregations and with their governments. We must strengthen the public outcry so that those in power will protect the common interest of humanity.
"We believe there can be no military solution to the crisis in Syria. It is time for the international community to assume its responsibility to end the violence and initiate a political process that brings peace for all the people of Syria. Resolute action now is necessary to save lives; waiting has already cost many lives. Collective action for peace is needed to save not only the people of Syria but also the surrounding region as well.
The communiqué also notes that the humanitarian situation in Syria and in neighboring countries is precarious. It says: "Humanitarian assistance is a vital aspect of the churches' mission and solidarity with those suffering. Such aid also contributes toward a process of reconciliation. National, regional, and international church ministries are alleviating the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Syrians affected by the war. It is important for church-related agencies to redouble their efforts now, including aid for refugees."
We at CWS are redoubling our efforts to assist the regional crisis underway with a new program to assist refugees who have fled to Egypt.
As we do that, we need to reaffirm our commitment to peace. Syrians have suffered enough.
Rev. John McCullough is President and CEO of CWS
If you would like to support CWS efforts in assisting Syrian refugees and others in need around the world, make an online donation here.