President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President,
We write to you as Christian organizations and denominations with strong interest and concern regarding the Syria crisis. Many of us maintain close connections with Christians and other faith communities in the Middle East, as well as civil society organizations, and have been responding to the crisis in various ways for the last four years.
Recent media attention has focused primarily on the plight facing refugees trying to enterEurope. But not enough attention is being paid to the dire circumstances that have led these refugees to make the difficult decision to leave their homes in the first place.
1. The root of the crisis is the devastating civil war in Syria, which has been raging now for more than four years. As a result of the war, half of all Syrians are displaced from their homes and more than 220,000 have died, according to the United Nations.
Rather than responding with deeper military involvement, the armed involvement of alloutside actors, including the United States, must cease. This includes the provision of arms and weaponry, as well as training, to opposition groups. The U.S. must urge its allies to do the same.
2. The U.S. government must make finding a negotiated solution to the Syria crisis a top diplomatic priority. This will require continued dialogue with Russia and the willingness to enter negotiations without preconditions, such as the requirement that President Bashar al-Assad step down immediately. In addition, Iran and all involved actors will need to be at the table if a sustainable solution is to be found.
3. Humanitarian assistance for people suffering from the brutal impacts of the war is vastly underfunded. Despite the difficult circumstances, many people wish to remain in Syria or nearby, in neighboring countries.
But their options are bleak, as the Syrian economy is in disarray and most refugees in neighboring countries are unable to work legally. As the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies have been forced to reduce or eliminate food vouchers, rent subsidies and other forms of assistance, and families exhaust their reserves, many feel they have no option but to leave.
We commend the generous commitment of $4.5 billion that the U.S. has already made toward humanitarian needs in the region. But the U.S. can and must do more and should continue to encourage others in the international community to increase their contributions as well.
4. The U.S. should open its doors to receive many more refugees. Even with more adequate funding for humanitarian assistance, some Syrians feel they will never be able to return home safely and wish to resettle in a third country. Many in our faith communities have a long and rich history of welcoming refugees. We encourage the U.S. to accept more Syrian refugees and to expedite the processing of these applications.
After more than four years, the Syria crisis feels intractable. But it is a human-made, political crisis. We can find a way forward, if we are willing to dedicate our collective long-term vision and energies to resolving the crisis.
May you experience wisdom, courage and strength in the days ahead.
American Friends Service Committee
Church of the Brethren
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Marquette University Center for Peacemaking
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
Pax Christi International
Presbyterian Church (USA)
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries