15-12 Commissioners’ Resolution. On Prayer and Action for Syria.
Source: Comissioners Event:220th General Assembly (2012)
Committee:
[15-12] Middle East and Peacemaking Issues
Sponsor:
No Assignment
Topic:Unassigned Type:General Assembly Full Consideration
http://pc-biz.org/Explorer.aspx?id=4379
Assembly Action
On this Item, the General Assembly, acted as follows:
Approve as Amended
Electronic Vote - Plenary
Affirmative: 621
Negative: 19
Abstaining: 5
Final Text:

1.     Amend Recommendation 2 as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with brackets and with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown with brackets and with and underline.]

“2.          Stand with the Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, our partner church, and other churches who [are facing unprecedented challenges now and are attempting to respond through new forms of witness] [have already themselves helped Christian refugees from Iraq, understanding the dangers that surround religious and other minorities in times of violence].”

2.     Amend Recommendations 6–7 as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with brackets and with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown with brackets and with and underline.]

“6.          Urge the U.S. government

“[] to support a mediated process of cessation of violence by all perpetrators, including the Assad regime and armed opposition groups,

“[] to call for all outside parties to cease all forms of intervention in Syria,

“[] to support a strong and necessary role for the United Nations, possibly including observers and peacekeeping forces, and

“[] to refrain from military intervention in Syria.”

“7.          Support full, public congressional debate of any potential U.S. [military] intervention, including cyberwar, weapons supply, training (as is already reported), and drone warfare, to examine carefully the possible humanitarian benefits, costs, and outcomes of such intervention, including its impacts on [religious communities and those imprisoned by the Assad regime] [the Syrian people], and to support review of the impacts of sanctions and other pressure on both Syrian society and the regime.”

Committee Recommendation
On this Item, the Middle East and Peacemaking Issues Committee, acted as follows:
Approve as Amended
[Counted Vote - Committee]
Affirmative:47
Negative:1
Abstaining:0
Final Text:

1.     Amend Recommendation 2 as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with brackets and with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown with brackets and with and underline.]

“2.          Stand with the Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, our partner church, and other churches who [are facing unprecedented challenges now and are attempting to respond through new forms of witness] [have already themselves helped Christian refugees from Iraq, understanding the dangers that surround religious and other minorities in times of violence].”

2.     Amend Recommendations 6–7 as follows: [Text to be deleted is shown with brackets and with a strike-through; text to be added or inserted is shown with brackets and with and underline.]

“6.          Urge the U.S. government

“[] to support a mediated process of cessation of violence by all perpetrators, including the Assad regime and armed opposition groups,

“[] to call for all outside parties to cease all forms of intervention in Syria,

“[] to support a strong and necessary role for the United Nations, possibly including observers and peacekeeping forces, and

“[] to refrain from military intervention in Syria.”

“7.          Support full, public congressional debate of any potential U.S. [military] intervention, including cyberwar, weapons supply, training (as is already reported), and drone warfare, to examine carefully the possible humanitarian benefits, costs, and outcomes of such intervention, including its impacts on [religious communities and those imprisoned by the Assad regime] [the Syrian people], and to support review of the impacts of sanctions and other pressure on both Syrian society and the regime.”

Recommendation

Responding to the ongoing agony of a virtual civil war in Syria, the 220th General Assembly (2012) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) calls for the following steps of prayer, witness, and action on behalf of the Syrian people:

1.     Invite all Presbyterians to join in prayer for Syria, using this one and others:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, as you appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, shine forth in these dark days to show us your way of peace. Put an end to violence and murderous threats. Fill every heart with the Spirit of peace; in your holy name we pray. Amen” (based on Acts 9).

2.     Stand with the Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, our partner church, and other churches who have already themselves helped Christian refugees from Iraq, understanding the dangers that surround religious and other minorities in times of violence.

3.     Encourage Presbyterians to become more fully informed about what is actually happening in Syria and within the peace-seeking efforts of the international community.

4.     Request the Middle East Office, the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, and other offices of the General Assembly Mission Council to post this resolution and other relevant information online, including communication from our partner churches, noting that objective information is often scarce and highly politicized.

5.     Respond to this ongoing tragedy by generously giving to the One Great Hour of Sharing offering and to the designated giving account DR000081 – Middle East/Syria.

6.     Urge the U.S. government to support a mediated process of cessation of violence by all perpetrators, including the Assad regime and armed opposition groups, to call for all outside parties to cease all forms of intervention in Syria, to support a strong and necessary role for the United Nations, possibly including observers and peacekeeping forces, and to refrain from military intervention in Syria.

7.     Support full, public congressional debate of any potential U.S. intervention, including cyberwar, weapons supply, and training (as is already reported), and drone warfare, to examine carefully the possible humanitarian benefits, costs, and outcomes of such intervention, including its impacts on religious communities and those imprisoned by the Assad regime, and to support review of the impacts of sanctions and other pressure on both Syrian society and the regime.

Rationale

Our Christian friends in Syria continue to endure great suffering—along with all the Syrian people—under the escalating violence between the Assad regime and armed opposition groups. The international community seems unable to agree on ways to bring the violence to a halt or to find a path of engagement that can lead to a peaceable resolution of the conflict. United Nations’ observers in Syria recently came under direct attack, resulting in the suspension of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria on June 16, 2012. This suspension is being reviewed on a daily basis.

As believers in Jesus Christ, who declare that our God is “able to find a way when there is no way,” we must go to God in prayer on behalf of all who are suffering and ask for wisdom as to how we might provide comfort and support. Our prayers include all victims of violence, their perpetrators, and members of the international community who are seeking ways to support a peaceable outcome to this disaster.

We must pray especially for our Christian partners, knowing that as in other places in the region, they will remain a minority at risk regardless of the outcome. Christians in Syria—who are an essential component of the fabric of Syrian culture and history—trace their Christian heritage back to the apostolic era and make up about 10 percent of the population of 22 million. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has partnered with Syrian churches for most of the last two centuries. Our hearts join in prayer for our sisters and brothers with whom we have been made one in the body of Christ.

Background material provided by our mission partners and others can help us begin to get a perspective on what has happened, and there are numerous paths to keeping our prayers informed and relevant through media coming from the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East.

Gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing and to the designated giving account DR000081 – Middle East/Syria will be used to provide humanitarian assistance to displaced families and others impacted by this crisis. Funds will also help our mission partners in the region as they respond, for instance, as they provide humanitarian assistance to displaced families and others impacted by this crisis.

Military intervention by the U.S. government or multilateral forces would likely result in more loss of life and further de-structuring of the Syrian social order, including further increases in the numbers of refugees and patterns of ethnic and religious cleansing so visible in Iraq. With stronger regional action (including Turkey’s response to Syria’s shooting down of a plane, potentially involving NATO allies of Turkey), and further defections from Syrian armed forces, the international community’s role of supporting peace with justice is increasingly engaging Russia and China and reversing previous U.S. patterns of “not talking” to enemies, there is still some hope of a managed transition in government and end to human rights violations. The example of Lebanon is also in the minds of many in the region, where external interference, assassinations, and invasions have reinforced religious and ethnic divisions (including the presence of refugees going back to the creation of Israel) and make for weak governance.

The strategic position of Syria and its links to Iran differentiate it from Libya and increase the geopolitical stakes for the United States and Israel, Europe and Turkey, and Russia and China, to group the major outside players. The initial democratic hopes of the “Arab Spring” (considered in Item 14-03) should remind Christians and all others of good will that moral and human rights concerns are valued by all human beings and that their suppression leads to greater suffering. Thus a wise international response to Syria should keep open the hope of reconciliation of all citizens there and minimize the score-settling and opportunism of outside interests.

Jeff Krehbiel, Presbytery of National Capital
Frances Daniel, Presbytery of Providence
Comment
ACSWP ADVICE AND COUNSEL

The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy advises that Item Item 15-12 be approved.

Rationale

It is true that violence and political impasse are escalating in Syria with potential spillover effect in the region. The numbers of displaced and refugees seem to increase.

It is also true that information and status reports seem to be limited.

Our partner church in Syria, The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, continues to reach out to refugees and displaced Syrian Presbyterians. This is in addition to large numbers of Iraqi refugees in Syria and Lebanon in the aftermath of the war and political unrest in Iraq.

Christians in general and Presbyterians in particular represent a minority in Syria. The resources of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon are limited, and we urge Presbyterians to support the church in Syria with prayers and financial resources including the support of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA).

GAMC COMMENT

The GAMC has three comments with respect to this commissioners resolution:

1.     Representatives of the Synod of Syria/Lebanon and the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch are present at this assembly. The committee may wish to hear directly from these individuals regarding the situation in Syria.

2.     The U.S. has instituted economic sanctions against Syria that restrict the church’s ability to send financial support to Syria. The One Great Hour of Sharing Offering and other resources specifically designated for response to this crisis will be sent to partners in the region as permitted by law.

3.     Recommendation 6 may be misread as currently worded, especially with respect to UN involvement and whether it is considered a form of intervention. The GAMC suggests that this may be resolved by formatting Recommendation 6 as follows:

“6.   Urge the U.S. government

“•    to support a mediated process of cessation of violence by all perpetrators, including the Assad regime and armed opposition groups,

“•    to call for all outside parties to cease all forms of intervention in Syria, to support a strong and necessary role for the United Nations, possibly including observers and peace-keeping forces, and

“•    to refrain from military intervention in Syria.”