The past week’s news of the chemical weapons attack on a peaceful neighborhood of Damascus has left me reeling. It’s hard for me to deeply understand why anyone would resort to this kind of atrocity – especially to target women and children. As I’ve prayed for the people of Syria and the world leaders who will be deciding if a military response is necessary, I have felt helpless and insignificant. While I know that I have a voice through my vote, it doesn’t seem enough right now. I know that I can call my congressmen and express my views – a very important action right now since our President is waiting to hear from Congress – but even that seems just a tiny measure. These are difficult days and I will rely on my trust in God’s love and mercy and grace to see us through.
As I was thinking about the blog post for this week then, I was not surprised to find a resolution that reflects my concerns:
Resolved, That the 77th General Convention affirms that our Lord’s commandment to love thy neighbor implies a binding moral responsibility on sovereign states to protect their populations from mass atrocities, including genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, as defined by international law; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention welcomes the United Nations’ establishment of the responsibility to protect as an international norm, and its efforts to uphold it through collective action when individual states fail to do so; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention commends the President of the United States for adopting the responsibility to protect as a principle of United States foreign policy; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention most strongly discourages the abuse of this norm to rationalize military actions in sovereign states for political ends; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention encourages the Presiding Bishop through the Office of Government Relations to join the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect so as to shape the continued development of precautionary principles for this norm and promote its faithful implementation; and be it further
Resolved, That the General Convention urges all Episcopalians to understand and reflect upon the principle of the responsibility to protect, and to advocate for its adherence by their respective governmental leaders.
What we have witnessed in Syria certainly falls under heading of “crimes against humanity.” Many of the resolves in this resolution require action beyond our scope of influence as individuals but, when we read the last resolve, we see it is for each of us to do something. What does it mean for us to “protect?” What does this look like? We can reach out to our congressmen through phone calls, emails or letters. We can make our voice heard for those who have no voice.
We can also educate ourselves through organizations like the international Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (see resolve 5) – http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/ Their website publishes updates on many crisis areas in the world including this recent attack in Syria.
And we can pray: pray for peace in Syria, pray for the victims of this civil war, pray for wisdom for our leaders. We can join with other faiths around the world this coming weekend to pray and fast as suggested by Pope Francis. Let us pray…
God of Compassion,
Hear the cries of the people of Syria, Bring healing to those suffering from the violence,
Bring comfort to those mourning the dead,
Strengthen Syria’s neighbors in their care and welcome for refugees,
Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms,
And protect those committed to peace.
God of Hope,
Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence and to seek reconciliation with enemies,
Inspire the Church around the world with compassion for the people of Syria,
And give us hope for a future of peace built on justice for all.
We ask this through Jesus Christ,
Prince of Peace and Light of the World,
(This prayer is from Catholics Confront Global Poverty . . . , a collaborative effort of USCCB and Catholic Relief Services.)
~ Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council