“We reject war, preparations for war, and every form of violence and domination, and promote the gospel imperative of peacemaking as a priority in the Catholic Church in the United States.” – from the mission statement for Pax Christi USA

Saturday, August 31, 2013: Today’s headlines read: “U.S. officials signal Syria strike is near.” “Inaction would show a ‘paralyzed’ world, Obama says.” “Kerry cites ‘clear’ evidence regime used chemical weapons.” By the time this statement is posted, the U.S. will likely have initiated military strikes in Syria, itself an act of war.

No one questions the obscenity of murdering a thousand people – many of them children – with poison gas, nor the moral indignation that people around the world feel at this atrocity and crime against humanity. The more than 100,000 deaths from two years of a cruel fratricidal war in Syria, and the cruelty of the Bashar al-Assad regime against its own people, speak to the obscenity of war.

What many do question, however, including military veterans in Congress, is the wisdom of a military strike by the U.S. in Syria. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq also began with military strikes, caused the destruction of hundreds of thousands of Afghan, Iraqi, and American lives, and lasted more than a decade after 9/11.

Pax Christi International, in a recent statement, opposes any military solution to the conflict:

“While we unequivocally condemn the use of chemical weapons, regardless of who perpetrated the attack, Pax Christi pleads with the nations of the world to recognize the responsibility and authority of the UN Security Council to address this egregious violation of international law and morality and to work with the United Nations to protect – without escalating the violence – the Syrian people.”

The “red-line” crossed in Syria was not only the use of chemical weapons, but war itself: “The truth is, war is the moral obscenity. It is war that must be stopped, and bombing campaigns do not end war” (Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, The Washington Post, Aug. 31, 2013).

John Paul II was right: “War is a defeat for humanity,” and his successor, Pope Francis agrees: “We must silence the guns in Syria… and end the multiplication of massacres and atrocities. Dialogue and negotiations are the only option for putting an end to the conflict and violence.”

In short, the consequences of a U.S. military strike are quite unpredictable, will likely be far graver than anticipated, and lead to many more years of spiraling violence and war in the Middle East and destruction of human life.

Military strikes are an act of war, and the violence of one strike can spiral out of control into a full-blown war.

According to David Cortright, from the Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre Dame:

“Bombing strikes would not be sufficient to neutralize Syria’s vast arsenal of chemical weapons, and they could cause chemical explosions that would release the deadly toxins we seek to contain… The result would be further bloodshed and destruction for the people of Syria, the worsening of an already grave regional security crisis, and U.S. involvement in another Middle East war.”

Of equal concern is what the Catholic bishops in the region have referred to as the danger of a Middle East war – and possible “third world war” – that could engulf nations of the regions and fuel inter-religious hatred: “We are living the total destruction of the peaceful coexistence that Christians and Muslims were able build over the last 400 years,” in the words of the Catholic Maronite patriarch of the region.

This is a crucial moment in history – and the U.S. can pursue the path of war, or the path of dialogue and negotiations, of true peacemaking. But the churches and people of all faith traditions should be leading the way, with our voices and by our witness.

Before we add more fuel to the fire, and to “the endless and horrifying sequence of wars, conflicts, genocides and ‘ethnic cleansings’ which have caused unspeakable suffering; millions and millions of victims, families and countries destroyed, an ocean of refugees, misery, hunger, disease, underdevelopment and the loss of immense resources,” – words of John Paul II – we ought to question the wisdom of a military strike in Syria and heed John Paul’s warning:

“The twentieth century bequeaths to us above all else a warning: wars are often the cause of further wars because they fuel deep hatreds, create situations of injustice and trample upon people’s dignity and rights… War is a defeat for humanity. Only in peace and through peace can respect for human dignity and its inalienable rights be guaranteed.”

*This statement from Pax Christi USA on Syria was written in collaboration with Scott Wright. 

11 thoughts on “STATEMENT: Pax Christi USA Official Statement on Syria – War is still a defeat for humanity

  1. I agree. As a long time student/eduactor of our own bloody American Civil
    War, more violence is never a good answer.
    Dialogue is always better than more and more bombs and destruction.

  2. The call for dialogue require a positive response from both sides. Dialogue to avoid the American Civil war would have left slavery in place for many years with many deaths and continued depravity. Someone must force the parties together – who then, who now?
    How could dialogue have converted Hitler from his hatred of Jews and others who did not fit his image of the ideal human? Obviously I am conflicted about all of this.

  3. Your comment David A. Patterson is based on the new pretext for war by the US Administration. It was used on Iraq, Libya, and now Syria. It is called “responsibility to protect”, (R2P).

    There was a time in our human history that excuse for war could have been used to justify the horror of war. However, since Gandhi offered us the tool or nonviolent civil disobedience, (which has been utilized ever since around the world to include the US civil rights movement , the velvet revolution that overthrew the USSR in Eastern Europe, the nonviolent revolution that overthrew the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines and many other examples. For nonviolence to work, we must act in a disciplined and strategic manner which is similar to war. The difference is that the activists do not kill but are willing to die for the moral principle. Gandhi said that nonviolent resistance is the weapon of the brave.

    Pax Christi has a tradition of standing up for the oppressed by openly challenging tyranny. This moral position is to be utilized early on in a given conflict before tyranny becomes firmly entrenched. If more of the German people and the nonviolent activists worldwide had stood up to Hitler’s fascist regime, WWII would not have been necessary. If more people had actively protested the war against Vietnam, we could have saved millions of lives. In short, we agree that humanity must act when tyranny raises it’s ugly head, but not with war but rather with nonviolent action.

    If you live in the Indianapolis area, a coalition of peace and justice organizations will be holding signs that call for NO WAR ON SYRIA on the overpass bridge over I69 on 96th St. on Wednesday Sep. 4. Please come and join us as we follow the tradition of witness based on nonviolent activism. The Pax Christi comment that this could lead to WWIII is not an exaggeration. Peace be with you my brother.

  4. I am very concerned that the debate in Congress seems to have been framed in an either – or fashion: either the United States will act militarily or take no action at all. Congress and the nation need to explore all the options, with a strong emphasis on the possible role of diplomacy in resolving this conflict.

    Last night a newscaster stated that Vladimir Putin had called Obama directly on the phone and asked him not to use military force. It is possible that in order to achieve that, Putin might be willing to stop the flow of arms from his country to Syria. Perhaps he could persuade others in his camp to do the same. Just possibly a negotiated settlement could be reached.

    John F. Kennedy worked with Khrushchev to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis, much against the advice of his military advisers. It worked, against the odds. The stakes were very high then, as they are today.

  5. I do not agree that Syria is guilty of using these weapons. I think that the rebels who are fighting against the Assad regime used the weapons as a means to entice the US into getting into the war. it would have been extremely foolish for the Assad regime to have used the weapons when the US made it know they were setting up a red line. I think that that the US knew that it was the rebels who shot the missle as way back in the 90ties Generl Wesley clark made a statement that the Bush Regime told him when he visited the Pentagon, that they were planning to take out the leadership of the following goverrnments- Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Iran. they clled them the axis of evil.
    Obama is following up on these threats instead of reversing course.. Russ Christensen

  6. Assad said that the chemical weapons are in a safe protected place.
    Not too well protected when somebody used them. They should be sincere all of them and tell the truth, who committed such atrocities?
    And no to war, yes to dialogue..They should send our Pope Francis to syria to have a conversation with Assad.

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