UM Social Justice Agency Condemns Chemical Weapons Use in Syria

9/25/2013

Calls for negotiated settlement under U.N. auspices of 2½-year-old civil war 

has condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria and called for a negotiated peace settlement under the auspices of the United Nations.

GBCS’s Board of Directors, meeting here last week, unanimously approved a statement declaring that those responsible for the “unconscionable act” of employing chemical weapons in the more than two-year-old civil war must be brought to justice. The board approved its statement, Sept. 21, the “International Day of Prayer for Peace,” and just as the 68th Session of the U.N. General Assembly convened.

“Our condemnation of this affront to humanity reminds us of the need for the Middle East to be a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction: biological, chemical and nuclear,” the GBCS statement says. “We urge governments to renounce the use of these particularly inhumane weapons as part of their national policy.”

The statement says GBCS’s governing body deplores the impunity with which warring forces have trampled the human rights and welfare of the Syrian people.

“The Syrian civil war has brought inescapable violence on its population, spawning massive displacement, causing immeasurable suffering,” the statement emphasizes. “The heavy, ever-increasing death toll results from both conventional and non-conventional weapons, particularly the lethal chemical sarin, whose use a U.N. inspection team has confirmed.”

GBCS commends U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin for moving toward a diplomatic solution to the crisis, avoiding a unilateral military attack. “We join with faith leaders and civil society organizations calling for robust diplomatic efforts to stop the bloodshed before Syria is destroyed, further destabilizing the Middle East,” the statement says. “These diplomatic efforts for a negotiated political settlement must be multilateral, under the auspices of the United Nations.”

The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. Prime responsibility of the board is to seek implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements on Christian social concerns of the General Conference, the denomination’s highest policy-making body. The board’s primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, United Nations & International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the denomination. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York City.

GBCS’s governing board comprises more than 60 persons from around the world. The board’s statement follows:

Syria

In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety (Hosea 1:18 NIV).

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding (Romans 14:19 ESV).

The General Board of Church & Society of The United Methodist Church condemns the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Their use is deplorable. Those responsible for this unconscionable act must be brought to justice.

Our condemnation of this affront to humanity reminds us of the need for the Middle East to be a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction: biological, chemical and nuclear. The United Methodist Church condemns the use of chemical or biological weapons. We urge governments to renounce the use of these particularly inhumane weapons as part of their national policy.

The situation in Syria pains our hearts. It reminds us that God’s earth aches for peace and God’s people yearn for security. We deplore the impunity with which warring forces have trampled the human rights and welfare of the Syrian people.

God of grace and love, hear our prayers for the people of Syria. We cry and pray for:

  • civilians, many of them children, killed by chemical weapons;
  • the more than 100,000 people killed by conventional weapons in the civil war of the past 30 months;
  • the 6.8 million Syrians, half of them children, needing humanitarian assistance;
  • the 4.25 million internally displaced;
  • the 1.78 million people displaced to neighboring countries; and
  • the 5,000 people fleeing Syria daily.

The Syrian civil war has brought inescapable violence on its population, spawning massive displacement, causing immeasurable suffering. This violence must stop. The heavy, ever-increasing death toll results from both conventional and non-conventional weapons, particularly the lethal chemical sarin, whose use a U.N. inspection team has confirmed.

We call on all nations in the world to press for an immediate ceasefire and an end to arms shipments to any combatants, and for diplomacy at the United Nations to hasten this rather than hamper the process.

We are pleased that U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin have moved toward a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

We join with faith leaders and civil society organizations calling for robust diplomatic efforts to stop the bloodshed before Syria is destroyed, further destabilizing the Middle East. These diplomatic efforts for a negotiated political settlement must be multilateral, under the auspices of the United Nations.

Therefore, we oppose military action that contravenes the Charter of the United Nations. We believe a unilateral military strike, even in concert with a coalition of other countries, will only exacerbate the conflict and deepen the crisis.

All peace-loving peoples of the world and their governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens and must support vigorously this diplomatic route toward a negotiated solution.

Convening a peace conference to facilitate a political settlement of the Syrian conflict is in order. The international community must rally around the United Nations to enable it to fulfill its role in ensuring peace, security, human rights and upholding international law. We urge that any settlement ensure the rights of all Syrians, including our Christian brothers and sisters.

Syria’s announcement that it will ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention is welcome. Syria must also join the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The Syrian government also must remove any impediments toward swift, safe removal of chemical weapons, including unhampered access by the U.N. weapons-inspections team to other alleged attack sites.

Adherence to international law lays the foundation for a more peaceful Syria and secure world. The abhorrent chemical attack in Syria must now lead to ratification of the convention by six remaining countries. The attack should also emphasize the need to immediately destroy such stockpiles by countries that have declared their production and possession, including the United States and Russia.

Allowing U.N. inspections is vital to upholding the Chemical Weapons Convention, thus building confidence for a broader ceasefire in Syria, and peace and security in the Middle East.

To a great extent, the uprisings across the Middle East are symptoms of a profound gap between the rich and the poor. Rather than punitive military strikes, we call for development and anti-poverty programs. Our United Methodist Social Principles call us to shift military spending to programs addressing human needs. True national security is that which upholds the social, economic, cultural, civil and political rights of peoples and their communities.

As United Methodists, let us keep lifting up our prayers for peace, urging all governments and peoples to stay committed to the long, arduous path of diplomacy, ceasefire and negotiations. This is the only path that leads to durable peace.

As we pray for peace, security and stability in Syria and the entire Middle East, may we be reminded of what our United Methodist Council of Bishops said in “God’s Renewed Creation: Call to Hope & Action”:

We love God and neighbor by practicing compassionate respect. We respect victims of violence by supporting their pursuit of peace … We love God and neighbor by challenging those who harm. We must not only respond to the suffering already created, but also challenge people, companies, and governments that continue to exploit the weak, destroy the earth, perpetuate violence, and generate more weapons. We follow Jesus’ example of confronting authorities nonviolently, using the force of love.

God of grace and love, hear our prayers for the people of Syria.