Monday, September 09, 2013

Aid not Cruise Missiles Please!

The pictures from Syria could hardly be more horrifying. The official death toll of 100,000 is almost certainly under-estimated and the terrors of chemical warfare have rightly outraged the West, though sadly, not the whole world. Yet - is it going to help the situation to hurl cruise missiles into the mix? If the cost involved in doing so were to be diverted to humanitarian aid alone, then a small dent in human suffering may be won, but the missiles alone cannot hope to do anymore than add to the sum total of misery.

President Obama may also be missing one important piece of the jigsaw. Not only could the action he proposes cause mayhem in the whole region and bring great danger to already unstable areas like Lebanon and Jordan, both almost overwhelmed already by the existing refugee crisis, it could sign the death warrants of thousands of Christian believers in Syria. In Maloula for instance - 10 miles outside Damascus - is one of the oldest Christian towns in the world, where the Christians speak the ancient language of Jesus and the disciples. Now, the town has fallen into a violent back-and-forth as government forces have battled to regain control from the al-Qa’ida-linked Jabhat al-Nusra rebels, who first overran government roadblocks and entered the town last Wednesday. During the occupation by rebel forces Christians were reportedly told to convert to Islam or face beheading. Churches have been attacked and looted and now bodies lie in the streets. Fanatical Islamic fighters from outside Syria have joined extremist nationals to eradicate Christianity from this area. And all the while, the rebels wait for Christian America to start lobbing in their missiles in support of their cause!

I am not a politically minded person, but I find it hard to see how the actions the West has already taken in the Middle East have led to peace and democracy in Iraq, Libya, Egypt (where the West supported the original so-called Arab Spring) and Syria. I accept that Mosul is not Reigate and the kind of democracy which will work there will be very different to leafy Surrey, but throughout those areas, Christians are being persecuted, killed and forced out.  Ethnic cleansing may be the outcome if the US does not enter the Syrian war, but it is already going on and will be bolstered by them if they do.

 'I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness'. (1 Timothy 2:1).  So let's pray for the US Congress now that they may receive wisdom and exercise restraint in this complicated area.