June 21, 2013
Dear President Obama,
On May 6, 2013, the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) urged your administration to exercise caution and wisdom in any response to reports of chemical weapons use in Syria. Of particular concern to our church, and our Christian partners on the ground, is the potential for increased violence and widening of the conflict.
The recent announcement by the Deputy National Security advisor that there is credible evidence that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons against the Syrian people is extremely disturbing. However, further intervention from outside parties only increases the risk that the conflict in Syria will result in surging civilian deaths and even worse humanitarian conditions for the Syrian people.
As you know, civilians are bearing the brunt of the fighting in Syria with nearly 93,000 killings documented through the end of April. And, the United Nations has estimated that ten million Syrians will need aid by the end of this year - 3.45-million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, and 6.8 million people in Syria itself. The current situation in Syria is fragile and complex with weapons now accessible throughout the country escalating violence and instability.
The 220th General Assembly (2012) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) urged our 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.
In keeping with this action of the General Assembly, I urge you to use extreme caution in implementing policies that might escalate the conflict. I further urge you to work with the United Nations and other governments to contain the violence, restore stability in the region, provide humanitarian assistance, and encourage the building of an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens.
The tragedy that is unfolding on the ground in Syria is heartbreaking and the cohesion of the Syrian social fabric is essential for the stability of the entire region. Syria urgently needs a political solution that ends the fighting and creates a future for all Syrians. It is only through nonviolent means that we can hope for radical change that leads to a just peace.
In his name,
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson
Director, Office of Public Witness
Presbyterian Church (USA)