Archive for September, 2013

Soulful Leadership for Peace in Syria

Photo Credit: flickr, DFID – UK Dept. for International Development

Time and again I hear friends say, “The situation in Syria is terrible. We have to do something. What if we had just stood by and let Hitler take over Europe? It’s time to send in U.S. troops.” On the other hand, I also hear friends say, “The U.S. is not the world’s policeman. This is a civil war in Syria. We need to stay out of it.”

Are there only two choices? Are we stuck with the options of either military intervention or a refusal to be involved?

In Engaging the Powers, Walter Wink points out that our natural responses to conflict are either flight or fight.  When faced with a threat, we think there are only two choices: fight or run away.  Yet Wink demonstrates that there is always a third way, and that creative leaders like Jesus, Gandhi, Dorothy Day, and Martin Luther King have always pointed the way toward it.

What if we stood up and said, “We want to find creative ways to help the Syrian people that will stop this terrible cycle of violence, not exacerbate it?”

This is exactly what a courageous few have been saying.  Soulful leadership in this situation means having compassion for the victims of violence in Syria while at the same time finding a third way forward. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, for example, points to a third way, a way of nonviolent engagement.

Friends Committee on National Legislation, too, has articulated what diplomacy in this situation could look like. Furthermore, FCNL points out the great harm that a military attack could cause, exacerbating the conflict and broadening it beyond Syria.

There are more than two choices. Neither choice in the mainstream public debate is acceptable. We need a third way that shows care for the victims while at the same time breaking the cycle of violence. We must learn not to add fuel to the fire of violence but instead to douse its flames.

How can we work together to find a better way forward? What will you do to explore an alternate approach in Syria? How will you call others to a third way?