Updated 16 April 2018.
The Church of Scotland and United Reformed Church (URC) have responded to the US, UK and French airstrikes in Syria. The Quakers in Britain, the Methodist Church and the Church in Wales opposed military action in Syria before the US, UK and France bombed targets in Syria on 14 April 2018. The World Council of Churches (WCC) is urging the international community to find a way to break the cycle of violence in Syria, stating “a just and sustainable peace for all Syrians can only be brought about through a political solution”.
Church of Scotland
Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council said:
“In the face of such violence and suffering, where civilians are being senselessly slaughtered, there is an overwhelming urge to do something. Where governments are concerned that urge is often expressed in the form of military action. When such difficult decisions are taken it is only right that they have received full and proper consideration.
“Within the context of a minority government we would expect Parliament to have a critical role in such decisions. Similarly, we would reaffirm the role of the United Nations in resolving this conflict and continue to urge UN officials, agencies and members of the UN General Assembly to use their influence in the search for peace. That this decision has been taken without the approval of either of these institutions is a concern.
“Our firm belief is that air strikes will not improve this situation, but will lead to further loss of lives, displacement, suffering and fear. To date the UNHCR estimates that 6.5 million Syrians are internally displaced people while 5.6 million registered refugees have fled Syria, many of them seeking refuge in Europe.
“We remain deeply concerned by the lack of a coherent and long term strategy for peace in Syria and for the millions of individuals who continue to suffer as a result of seven years of war. Instead of violence we encourage all actors to redouble efforts to engage in working towards a diplomatic and political solution considering their responsibility to protect civilians.
“The life, example and teaching of Jesus calls us to be peacemakers. We are called to love our enemies even when that remains a profoundly difficult task. As people of faith we continue to pray for and strive for peace, believing that with prayer and repentance hearts can be changed and the world transformed.”
See the Church of Scotland website.
United Reformed Church (URC)
The United Reformed Church says it is pressing the British government to avoid participating in any further military action in Syria and instead to urgently work with international partners to pursue peaceful solutions.
The Revd Kevin Watson, Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly, said: ‘The death, devastation and terror being imposed on the people of Syria is tragic and deplorable. Our prayers for peace and their protection continue.
‘As a faith community, we acknowledge that challenging the use of chemical weapons is right, and those responsible should be held to account. However, we are concerned that more military strikes will lead to more deaths and add to the devastation and displacement that the people of Syria are already experiencing.
‘Jesus calls on his people to be peacemakers. The road to peace is a long and hard one, but ultimately this conflict will only be ended through negotiation.
‘We will continue to pray for the safety and well-being of the Syrian people, and urge our political leaders to redouble their efforts to bring all parties together to broker a peaceful solution.’
See the URC website.
Quakers in Britain.
“We see with horror the death and devastation being imposed on the people in and around Syria. We believe that the use of chemical weapons should be challenged. However, as a faith community our religious understanding and experience is that true peace cannot be imposed by military might.
“We remain convinced that there are both moral and pragmatic reasons to oppose military action in Syria. Bombs dropped from the air kill indiscriminately, and also increase the risk of terrorist retribution. Those who suffer the most in violent conflict are non-combatants, ordinary people including women and children.
“Instead we support the process of building peace. Peace is rarely immediate or easy, but it results in genuine long-term security. True peace comes from hard work and thoughtful actions.
“We urge the Prime Minister not to sideline democratic processes, and to consider the long-term impact of any action in Syria.”
See the Quakers in Britain website
The Methodist Church
Statement on Syria from Revd Loraine Mellor, President of the Methodist Conference, and Jill Baker, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference:
“We lament the continuing violence in Syria and remember the Syrian people whose lives have been devastated by years of war.
“Over five million Syrians have been forced to flee the conflict to date and even more have been displaced within Syria. More than 10,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United Kingdom where they have been welcomed and supported by many, including our own Methodist churches and other faith communities.
“Syrian people have always been our neighbours, but now they are part of our Churches, our communities and our nation. As a result we are more aware than ever of the devastating impact that war has on families and individuals.
“We continue to remember those killed or injured in Douma and their families in our prayers. The use of chemical weapons is deplorable, and it is essential that those responsible are identified and held accountable for their crimes. There is a role for the whole international community to play in bringing justice to this situation.
“However, air strikes on Syria risk further destabilising the situation in the country and escalating the conflict.
“We pray that in this situation national leaders will demonstrate qualities of understanding, perception, creativity and commitment. We ask that any immediate response recognises that ultimately the conflict can only be brought to an end through negotiation with all parties.”
See the Methodist Church website.
Church in Wales
The Church in Wales is calling for concerted diplomatic action rather than an escalation of violence.
An emergency motion was passed at the meeting of its Governing Body:
That the Governing Body:
- Note with alarm the return to the international agenda of the possibility of heavy bombardment and violent intervention in the situation in Syria;
- While condemning the use of chemical weapons, is mindful of the complexities of the situation which rule out simplistic answers;
- Call upon the UK Government to prioritise concerted diplomatic action to secure more peaceful and consensual international responses rather than an escalation of violence.
The Bishop of St Asaph, Gregory Cameron, who brought the motion, said, “I am delighted that Governing Body is able to add its voice to this important issue to call for peace and justice in the Middle East. The situation is deeply complex but a rush to flex military muscles is not, in my opinion, a wise reaction. We are asking all Christians and people of faith to hold Syria in their prayers at this tense time.”
See the Church in Wales website