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Social agency urges United Methodists to ask Congress to negotiate, not attack Syria

Women and children walk through the Zaatari Refugee Camp near Mafraq, Jordan. Opened in July, 2012, the camp holds more than 50,000 refugees from the civil war inside Syria. The United Methodist Committee on Relief has worked with its partners to assist the refugees. Other United Methodists are urging  negotiations over  a U.S. military attack on Syria. Photo © Paul Jeffrey, ACT Alliance.

Women and children walk through the Zaatari Refugee Camp near Mafraq, Jordan. Opened in July, 2012, the camp holds more than 50,000 refugees from the civil war inside Syria. The United Methodist Committee on Relief has worked with its partners to assist the refugees. Other United Methodists are urging negotiations instead of a U.S. military attack on Syria. Photo © Paul Jeffrey, ACT Alliance.

An action alert has been issued by the Peace with Justice unit of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, asking church members to call on Congress to oppose a U.S. military attack on Syria and support “vigorous peace negotiations” instead.

Mark Harrison, church and society executive, noted that “only a political solution to the conflict in Syria will end the suffering of its people” and cited the United Methodist Social Principles, which declare war to be “incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ.”

Church and Society’s U.N. Office also is sponsoring a peace vigil against military action on Syria from 12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 6 in the chapel of the Church Center for the United Nations. Co-sponsors include United Methodist Women, the Mennonite Central Committee, U.N. Office, and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.

Other church leaders have expressed concern over how to respond to Syria’s use of chemical weapons on its own people. The Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, top executive of the World Council of Churches, sent an open letter to the U.N. Security Council, also opposing military intervention.

Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, Ecumenical Officer of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, was among 24 Christian faith leaders who signed a July 13 letter asking President Barack Obama not to pursue military force against Syria.

Bishop Grant Hagiya of the Greater Northwest episcopal area has encouraged United Methodists to heed Pope Francis’ invitation and spend Sept. 7 in prayer and fasting for peace in Syria.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief and Church World Service have been working through partner agencies for months to address critical needs of Syrian refugees, who are now leaving the country at a rate of 5,000 a day, according to new information from the United Nations.