Pause for Thought

So accustomed have I become to Bro Duncan PBGV’s occasional kidnapping of the keyboard, I nearly wrote ‘Paws for Thought’ and maybe there is greater wisdom in that than I thought. I will explain anon, but first, a very simple summary of some important events here in Britain during the past few days.

Earlier this week Parliament voted against military intervention in Syria in principle and David Cameron, very properly and honourably, said that meant that Britain would not now be party to any military intervention there in the future. Those picking over the decision have been drawing all kinds of conclusions from it. The party political ramifications, although important to us here in Britain, are a distraction from what is ostensibly our principal concern: the suffering of the people of Syria. The effect on the ‘special relationship’ between the U.K. and the U.S.A. also strikes me as being secondary. (I had the impression that President Obama was rather lukewarm about it anyway.) But Parliament’s decision does mean that other countries have paused in their rush to decide about military intervention, and that pause may be exactly what is needed to allow the voices of the Syrian people themselves to be heard. The ugliness and brutality of the Assad regime is not in doubt; but his opponents are not exactly angels of light, either; nor is the volatility of the Middle East as a whole in question. Why the fifteenth use (allegedly) of chemical weapons in Syria should be the point at which outside military intervention is considered appropriate is still not clear to me. We know that at least 100,000 people have been killed and that 1,000,000 Syrian children are now refugees. Each one is an individual, with a history, a personality, a face. Each one is a child of God.

It is at that point that Bro Duncan’s ‘paws for thought’ resonates with me. Dogs are noble in their ability to get on with even the nastiest human beings. They forgive readily or, if they do not forgive, they do not allow their negative feelings to destroy the opportunities of the moment. By and large, they are not too bothered about status or position, in the domestic context at least. They are patient, ‘dogged’ in the popular sense. Dogs would make very good diplomats, and I think we need some doggy diplomatic qualities as never before.. Christians in Syria have appealed for renewed dialogue rather than missile strikes, and that is something we in the West ought to pay more heed to. We have a tendency to look at problems from the outside in, and confuse activity with transformation. Moral indignation is all very well, but our duty is to change what is wrong. The fact that the U.K. will not be intervening militarily does not mean that we have any less of a responsibility to work for peace. The humanitarian catastrophe that is Syria is on the conscience of us all. The danger is  that, now that military strikes have been ruled out, we will fold our arms and do nothing. Shame on us if so!


4 thoughts on “Pause for Thought”

  1. I totally agree with all of your points.

    The UK has a humanitarian responsibility to do what it can to bring about a political solution while providing aid to those suffering. It seems to me that this doesn’t involve posturing and bluffing about military might, rather the need to work in all spheres possible and with all resources necessary to bring about a solution to the situation, not only in Syria, but in Egypt, and other troubled areas such as Southern Sudan, Palestine etc. Only a comprehensive, regional wide reconciliation is likely to work, although it would need to be on a country, by country basis.

    A powerful thing would be to bring both Saudi Arabia and Iran onside, along with Turkey and Israel – we have opportunities to do this with a new moderate President in Iran, who might just be prepared to listen and to join in with efforts to bring about a resolution. These are the four biggest powers (along with Egypt) and if they worked together, who knows what could be achieved.

    The Western countries have not learned any lessons from the past it seems. Seeking to impose their version of democracy on a different culture through force of arms hasn’t worked in the past and won’t work now, it just causes further alienation and hatred. It needs these countries to join together and work out their mutual future as equal, if diverse Islamic countries, hopefully celebrating what they share in common, while agreeing to disagree about their differences.

    Moderation, calm and peaceful co-existence being the aim for the whole region.

    Where are the voices of the peacemakers at the moment, drowned out by those commending a military solution to what is a political and humanitarian stalemate.

    Prayer and hope are one part of engaging, but the political will and determination to achieve a solution equitable to all is the other.

    Turn the swords into plough shares I say.

  2. I so agree about the suffering of the people being the central and, in my opinion, the only thing which needs to influence any decision. What relief will yet another layer of bombing bring? The self-interest being expressed appals me.

  3. I agree with much of what’s said above, but on balance rather than wholeheartedly. The unfortunate fact is that those of us, myself included, who aren’t persuaded that military action against Syrian government forces would have done anything other than worsen an already bad situation have yet to come up with positive alternative suggestions (other than prayer, which I’m sure many of us will have been offering for a long time already). As much as precipitate action is a danger, so is the slow intrusion of wishful thinking into our attempts to discern what – if anything – we should now be doing. To take only one example, Iran’s new President is being widely represented as “moderate”, but no-one really and truly knows him to be so, and I know of at least one commentator on the region who doubts his views differ all that much from those of his predecessor, considering that the difference lies rather in the new man’s greater agility in the sphere of PR. Let us by all means think hard about and agitate for effective action to help wherever we can – but let that be done rigorously and with a clear idea of the realities we face.

  4. Obama is pushing hard for action in Syria. The US media focuses only on the rebels and portrays them as victims and heroes. Those who pay attention know that both sides are guilty of atrocities. My biggest concern is for the Christian population, if the muslim rebels take control, will they continue their attempt to eradicate the Christian population? Will they form a theocracy or a more democratic government?

    I am encouraging my friends and family to ask politicians to take NO military action in Syria but provide humanitarian aid to both sides. My position comes from parishioners who are Syrian and have family remaining in Aleppo.

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