Non-violent resistance and Syria
On Wednesday we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. We honored the leaders of the Civil Rights movement who risked everything to overturn segregation, organize workers, and defend human rights. We admired their courage when confronting mobs, their dignity when accepting arrest, and their resilience when facing impossible odds. The Civil Rights movement in the U.S. is historical evidence of the effectiveness of non-violent protest. This American example is just one of many from around the global that prove this method’s legitimacy as a catalyst for social justice.
Note the shift in political rhetoric from last week to this. President Obama and the Congress are not considering a non-violent reaction to the atrocities in Syria. Military interventions are the only options that they can imagine. Six days ago, politicians paid homage to the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., and then once the party was over they pushed his memory to the back of the bus so that they could get on with the business of war.
There are still people in the U.S. and other countries who study non-violent techniques, undergo training, and apply those teachings when addressing oppression. They can imagine other options besides military intervention. I address my question to these experts--
Is a war trial a possibility? A war crime has been committed. Chemical weapons have been used against civilians. Evidence of this could be presented at an international war crimes court. Lawyers representing all parties could be heard. The judges would then render a verdict.
If the Assad regime is found guilty, penalties could be set, arrest warrants issued, assets frozen, the prison cells readied. The guilty will not be able to hide in Syria forever, and while the world waits for their capture, forensic accountants can cut them off from their wealth and make it impossible for them to pay their soldiers, finance their war, and hide from justice.
My commitment to live by faith following the example of Christ prompts me to look for non-violent options. The purpose of this blog motivated me to look at the United Methodist doctrinal standards for teachings relevant to this issue. Wesley’s Notes individualize Jesus’ statements in Matthew 5 and Luke 6 concerning showing love for one’s enemies. Wesley did not use these passages of scripture as the basis for a political principle.
Wesley’s comment on Romans 12:19 is open to a broader interpretation, however. “Revenge not yourselves, but leave that to God. Perhaps it might more properly be rendered, leave room for wrath; that is, the wrath of God, to whom vengeance properly belongs. Deut 32:35”
American politicians want to send a message to rogue leaders everywhere that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated. Delivering that message by means of a missile will not be effective because violence weakens moral impact. This is a moral lesson, and it can only be learned through the use of moral teaching methods.
Release your desire for revenge. Turn over your wrath to God. Only then will you be able to imagine other avenues that lead to peace and justice.