President Biden - Stand In Solidarity with the People of Syria

President Biden - Stand In Solidarity with the People of Syria

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Dear President Joe Biden,

As religious and civic leaders representing the diversity of the United States of America, we are called by our shared values and faith traditions to stand for justice, strive for peace, help the persecuted, love our neighbor, and advance the common good. The Syrian crisis that started ten years ago has decimated the small, yet important, country of Syria and forced people to leave their homes, displacing more people than at any other time since the Second World War. In addition to what the Syrian crisis has done to affect our allies and interests in the Middle East and Europe, Syria has been a moral failure of the international community. We urge your administration to act to end this war, promote justice and accountability, and help Syrians heal with a resolute, diplomacy-first U.S. Syria policy.

God speaks loudly and unequivocally to preserve the life of the vulnerable. The Psalms declare that the blood of the needy is precious in God’s sight and it is they whose life is redeemed from oppression and violence (Ps. 72:12 – 14). It is this oppression and violence that has moved the United Nations to call the situation in Syria “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”

It is with much thought, prayer, and deliberation and with a deep sense of urgency that we are calling for these actions by our government. We have heard the cries of the innocent, and we feel compelled to stand in solidarity with the Syrian people. 

Our sense of urgency is informed by our shared humanity and our belief in the role of the United States in leading for peace and justice around the world. We reemphasize see our moral commitment to that fated promise-- “Never Again”.

Indeed, Syria is uniquely important to the Abrahamic faiths. Syrians are proud caretakers of the tomb of John the Baptist, a prophet revered by Muslims and Christians. Damascus is the path where St. Paul is said to have converted to Christianity, and Aleppo is home to the church of St. Simeon the Stylites the Elder. Syria is the only country where the Aramaic language, the language spoken by Jesus Christ, is spoken by three villages near Damascus-- one Christian, and two Muslim. Syria has special importance to the Muslim faith. It has diverse Muslim communities and many historic Islamic relics. Syria also had a thriving Jewish community before it was forced to leave its historic neighborhoods and synagogues due to the anti-Semitic policies of the current regime. 

We commend the Government of the United States for the significant contributions made to support humanitarian and relief efforts in Syria. Across the United States, people of faith and of no faith have stood in solidarity with the people of Syria.

The American people have sympathized with the suffering of the Syrian people. In our churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples, we have prayed for the people in Aleppo, Ghouta, Idlib, and Homs. Our congregants have donated for humanitarian assistance, prayed for peace, and cried for the children, women, and men who drowned at Europe’s doorstep. We demanded justice for the victims of chemical weapons, barrel bombs, and Russian airstrikes. We also demanded to resettle more Syrian refugees and demonstrated against the Muslim Ban. But so far, our sympathy did not translate into sustained political resolve to end the crisis.

President Biden: We are writing to you not only as the President of the United States of America but as a person of faith striving for justice at home and abroad. We call on you as a deeply devout person of faith who fought and won the battle for the soul of our nation. You have often quoted the Gospel of Matthew — 'what you have done to the least of my brothers and sisters, you have done to me.’ Your commitment to justice, equity, and to the dignified treatment of refugees and immigrants is commendable. All humans deserve to live with dignity. As the Muslim tradition says “All humans are the children of God. The best among you is the best to His children.” As Secretary Anthony Blinken noted in his March 2021 remarks on Syria at the UN Security Council, the Syrian children should remind us of our own.

Since March 2011, fully half of the Syrian population has been displaced, and 50% of them are children. As it stands, more than 7 million Syrians have fled the country, and 7 million remain internally displaced. More than 13.4 million people in the country need some sort of relief, according to the United Nations. The overall civilian death toll from this war is estimated to be close to 600,000 including 55,000 children. The conflict has caused untold suffering for Syrian men, women, and children.

In addition to the millions of people who have been killed or displaced, the global economic cost of the decade-long Syrian war is more than $1.2 trillion. The life expectancy of Syrian children has been reduced by 13 years. After a decade of war, 9 in 10 children still inside the country are in need of aid. Meanwhile, COVID-19 is spreading, unhindered by a healthcare system largely destroyed.

The international response to the largest-scale humanitarian crisis of our life continues to be impeded by the politicization of diplomacy and humanitarian aid, contributing to an ongoing paralysis in the UN Security Council. All parties to the conflict must protect civilian life.

Last month, at the tenth anniversary of the Syrian crisis, Pope Francis called for a decisive commitment by the international community to end the fighting and called to “pray to the Lord that the great suffering in our beloved and tormented Syria may not be forgotten and that our solidarity might revive hope.”

Therefore, as the crisis continues into the eleventh year, we urge our government to include Syria at the top of its international policy agenda and take actions that would be effective in bringing peace and security to the people there.

We believe that the protection of all Syrians can best be served through a comprehensive diplomatic effort. Specifically, we encourage more thorough and effective peace negotiations with all parties to the conflict. There can be no peace in Syria unless there is a political settlement based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254, which advances accountability for the horrifying crimes against humanity and enables the safe, dignified, and voluntary return of refugees.

We call on the Syrian government, and all other parties, to cease hostile actions against civilians, to stop bombing hospitals, schools, and markets, to ascertain the fate and whereabouts of the nearly 200,000 Syrians who have disappeared, take steps to inform families, and release those detained, and to engage in immediate serious efforts to end the crisis.

We are calling on the U.S. government to internationalize pressure on the governments of Syria, Russia, and Iran, and create a united diplomatic front to support a Syrian-led peace process.

We urge members of our congregations and people of faith to stand in solidarity with the people of Syria to continue to pray, donate, advocate and discern. 

President Biden:

We encourage your administration to act in all forms, especially the following:

1. Making the peaceful and just resolution of the Syrian crisis, based on UN Security Council Resolution 2254, a priority in your administration through resolute diplomatic engagement and leadership. President Biden should appoint a high-profile diplomat as U.S. Syria envoy on Syria.

2. Holding the perpetrators of crimes against humanity from all sides accountable by supporting international justice and accountability mechanisms.

3. Increasing the humanitarian aid to the Syrian people, assuring access to the people in need, and protecting humanitarian workers.

4. Increasing the number of Syrian refugees resettled in the United States.

5. Speaking to the American people about the importance of ending the Syrian crisis and affirming international norms based on our shared values. 

We firmly believe that the scripture in John 3:18 is calling us to love not only in word or speech but in truth and action and that God’s spirit is calling for peace and justice on behalf of the people of Syria. Let us heed God’s call for lasting peace.

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