On September 9, a number of PCUSA members, friends and partners visited the offices of every member of the U.S. Congress and hand-delivered a letter from Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International. The letter said in part:
A chorus of voices in our Catholic community worldwide – from Pope Francis to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to leadership of religious communities and organizations – has called on Congress to reject the request of the President to attack Syria. We are deeply troubled that President Obama would undercut the legitimate authority of the United Nations.
The Obama administration has created a false choice between military action and inaction. We insist that effective, nonviolent, legal steps remain that must be taken to reduce the horrific violence, protect the Syrian people and hold perpetrators of the chemical attack to account. These do not include U.S. military action in Syria. They do include the following:
- Turn all U.S. intelligence about the use of chemical weapons in Syria over to the United Nations to help build a clear, legal case against the perpetrators in the proper international court of justice. Effective accountability is rooted in the rule of law and restorative justice.
- Engage the full UN Security Council (UNSC), both permanent and elected members, to act on Syria with the goal of a complete arms embargo, immediate humanitarian access, a ceasefire, a negotiated peace and accountability for violations of international law.
- If effective action by the UNSC is vetoed, engage the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in full debate on the matter. Precedent exists in UNGA Res 377 (1950) that gives the UNGA authority to act following a veto in the UNSC.
- In the meantime, support creation of zones of peace and deployment of nonviolent peacekeepers, including civilians, to accompany Syrian communities overwhelmed by the violence.
A unilateral military attack on Syria by the United States would reveal a stunning failure of moral imagination and courage on the part of the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress. In the event of a positive vote in Congress, the President himself should decide against military action. To choose a yet-viable multilateral, nonviolent response would be a powerful act of global leadership for the 21st century, maintain the dignity and independence of the Presidency and demonstrate a deep commitment to international cooperation.
Pleading for courage and praying for peace, our communities around the world will be with you as you make this crucial decision.