Thursday, September 5, 2013

Death By a Thousand Cuts: Bleeding Syria

The images are heart-breaking and deeply disturbing.  They are also seemingly coming at us in steady supply.  Since the civil war within Syria erupted in March 2011, estimates place the death toll at over 100,00 and rising.  Over 2 million have been driven from their homes.  The litany of horrific atrocities committed by all sides in this conflict read like a slasher movie plot.  The dead are not just combatants, but innocent men, women, and children purposely butchered in many almost psychotically induced ways.  Christianity is being eradicated and strongly persecuted as it is in Egypt and Iraq.  Alawite and Kurd minorities are also suffering greatly.  There are no good guys in  this struggle, just a variety of different murderers.  There is no real end in sight.  One wonders what will be left when the smoke does start to clear.

What to do?  This seems to be the big question nowadays.  Our government and other other world governments are debating this after chemical weapons were used.  It was called crossing a red line.  It was barbaric that such weapons were used, to be sure.  How, though, are those 1400 or so deaths any more outrageous and barbaric than the 100,000 who were shot, beheaded, blown up , beaten and tortured, or any of the other hosts of ways the people of Syria have been butchered?  How will adding to the bloodshed by adding our weapons to the mix either through giving them one side ( a side aligned with those behind the 9/11 attacks) or by cutting out the middle man and just launching them ourselves help at all?  Has not the last 12 years of war in the Middle east assured us that violence begets violence?  Is there any sane indication that our bombing Syria will stem the crimson tide of blood already washing over Syria?  Will our involvement cause one side to cease and desist?  Will it not, perhaps, be like lacing a stick of dynamite and spilling this civil war beyond the borders of Syria?  There has got to be a better way.  We need to search for it and search quickly.  We have tried battles, war, military action, sanctions, and endless negotiations.  We have exhausted every human form of solution only to watch this endless cycle of violence continue.

Pope Francis has asked Catholics to fast and pray this Saturday with the intent of peace in Syria.  Seems simplistic doesn't it?  Not at all!  Prayer and fasting are a way of admitting our own helplessness in this matter and seeking divine answers.  After the Transfiguration account in the Gospel of Mark (9:14-29), as Jesus, Peter, James, and John are coming down from the mountain they encounter the other apostles struggling with a possessed boy who is possessed by a very violent spirit.  They are unable to exorcise the demon.  After Jesus does so, he tells them that some demons (and hence demonic activity..and what is happening in Syria is nothing short of demonic) can only be driven out by prayer and fasting.  In short we are called to face great evil with great love.  Taking the time out to be conscious enough to disrupt our eating cycles through fasting and allowing those hunger pangs and disruptions to remind us to pray and lead us to pray are acts of selfless love.  We move beyond ourselves for the sake of others.  Such prayer can have a profound affect on the the person and grant grace to clarify the right path or options.  I can assure you that the people in Syria, especially our Christian brothers and sisters need this more than more weapons and bombs!  It will definitely help to achieve more than yet more killing and maiming will ever do.

As Catholics, we are supposed to stand for that which is of peace and love.  We cannot engage in the vicious cycle of revenge.  Not in international relations.  Not is our own personal relations.  Not in Syria.  Not in our homes.  A day of prayer and fasting goes in the right direction.  Actively helping those who have been driven from their lands and homes is a step in the right direction.  Encouraging our leaders to refrain from adding yet more violence to the mix is a step in the right direction. I cannot encourage you enough to heed our Pope's call to fast and pray.  For those who are brother and sister Christian, prayer and fasting is appropriate as well.  For those who are of other faiths or no faith at all: I believe we can all agree that the current state of affairs must cease and that violence as an answer will not help this situation in the slightest.  At some point, the good have no put their foot down and say "no more".   

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