[Address: ADDU Gathering for Peace On the Invitation of Pope Francis]
We have seen the images on the media: images of Syrian corpses lined up in an open pit grave, all of them killed by chemical weapons of mass destruction. The images, we know, but represent thousands and thousands of human beings who have been similarly killed, and folded away in nameless graves, victims of chemical weapons unleashed in a nightmarish war which does not go away.
More horrifying: the images not only of felled soldiers of combat, and committed fighters for a compelling cause, but of women and children killed by chemicals in this unending conflict. Worse: the images of men and women, old and young, hardened and innocent, writhing in pain, dying tearfully just because they needed to breath, gasping for life-giving air, but taking into themselves the lethal fumes of sarin gas, malevolently unleashed by human beings to kill human beings massively, in order apparently to strengthen a political position.
The use of chemical weapons of mass destruction was proscribed after World War I, when the alternative to chemical weapons was the rifle and the bayonet. In Syria, its use on August 21, shy of three weeks ago, has been recognized the world over, with many however just looking the other way, others shaking their heads, others throwing up their arms in frustration for the apparently mindless killing, and yet others, a very exclusive part of humanity, in possession of rare weapons of mass destruction, debating the possibility of intervening militarily through the technology of cruise missiles and rockets rained down from the sky. Their avowed intention: first, to punish the Syrian government for its use of tabooed chemical weapons, even though its guilt has not been legally established, and second, to degrade the capability of the Syrian government to further use chemical weapons, even though undermining the Syrian government may lead to worse scenarios of fanaticism, violence, instability and killing.
The conditions, proclaimed with carefully chosen words, are that there would be “no boots on the ground”, and the precision surgical attacks would be over within 30-60 days. “No boots on the ground” meaning that human destruction would take place without human beings being able to see the whites of the eyes of the human beings they kill. “No boots on the grounds” killing women and children, young and old, as indiscriminately, painfully and effectively as does sarin gas. “ Weapons of mass destruction” meaning: weapons of greater lethality than the sarin gas, and arguably no less inhuman; these would be unleashed, despite certain collateral damage, in an operation that no person who has watched the genesis of protracted wars in the past half century will agree can be concluded in 60 days. The planned US attack would be responded to by the attacked and their allies, the religious righteous and the enraged guerilla patriot, all ready to fight the bully, the “Satan”, the “Evil One,” all ready to claim they act in the preservation of humanity and human values, freedom and independence, all glorifying the one God through their calculated and intended destruction, and all invoking his protection against what they unleash. Syria, we know, is a tinder box hidden amidst powderkegs. Attack it with an American missile, the powder kegs will explode with it, in a series of retaliations and counter attacks and counter retaliations between protagonists and antagonists AND their allies that shall almost necessarily involve Russia and China, who have warned the US against its contemplated strike. Explode Syria, and Iran and Egypt and the whole Middle East will explode with it, and, where leaders are proud and righteous, and angry and stressed, possibly even conflagrate a third World War.
This is why we come together this afternoon for these few minutes together – to pray for peace. We know peace in a world of Realpolitik is not achieved on an idealistic appeal; but neither is it established through war, war, war! In his letter to the G20 leaders of the developed world, Pope Francis has said: “It is clear that for the world’s peoples, armed conflicts are always a deliberate negation of international harmony, and create profound divisions and deep wounds which require many years to heal… “ Referring to the conflicts of the Syrian people he told the G20 leaders, “To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution. Rather, let there be a renewed commitment to seek, with courage and determination, a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation of the parties, unanimously supported by the international community.”
Meanwhile, the suffering in Syria, in Iran, in Egypt continue. The American President has not been deterred from his resolve to strike Syria militarily, and the American Congress continues to debate whether or not to support him.
We come here humbly to add our voices to the Pope’s appeal for a non-military solution, an end to the chemical murder of men, women and children anywhere, and an end to any and all use of weapons of mass destruction against humanity. From the most interior recesses of our humanity, we stand to say: let the killing stop! Let there be peace!
May our God, whom we recognize as the God of Compassion and Peace, hear our humble prayer, and reveal to humanity his face of Peace.