Try to imagine this scenario. Groups of Americans from the United States begin to peacefully demonstrate against the president of our country in locales all across the country. The government sends in the military to quell the disturbances and in a show of force they gun down protesters. This angers even more people who join the rebellion which grows angry and violent. There are enraged armed mobs in your town fighting against the soldiers. You watch as the disturbances grow into all out civil war. The lines between enemies are blurry and take on a religious aspect as well as political. Splinter groups form, some of which are barbaric. You and your family members are caught in the crosshairs. Bombs from the government come into your neighborhood. Bullets from the rebels forces lodge in the walls of your home. Terrorists taking advantage of the unrest kill your friends and relatives in the most brutal manners. What was once a place of peace has become hell on earth. You do not want to leave your home but fear that if you do not, you and those that you love will surely die. A final blast of chemical weapons from the government forces convinces you that it is no longer safe to stay in the place that has always been your refuge. You watch children who live near you dying in the cruelest manner. You can’t take the horror any longer and so you decide to flee.
At first you make your way to Mexico or Canada. You are placed in a refugee camp with thousands of others. You are told that you may not stay indefinitely. There are too many of your kind seeking escape from the war. Your temporary residence is infested with crime and want. You live in a tent that is either too hot or too cold. Disease breeds freely in the unsanitary conditions. You feel only slightly better than you did in the place from which you have fled. You try to get to other places that might be more welcoming or more pleasant. The process is difficult and even if you are lucky enough to gain a passage to some nice town in Europe the residents of those places view you with suspicion and disdain. All you really want is to be able to sleep at night without fear. Your dream is to one day be able to return to your home and begin your life anew. Your whole world is upside down and none of it is of your own doing. It all feels so hopeless.
In the meantime, different nations are choosing sides in the battle that rages back in the United States. Not only are there disagreements to resolve between the government and the rebels but also different factions within factions as well as other countries. It is such a tangled mess that you despair that it will ever be possible to sort things out and find the peace that you so desire. You cry for your country and for yourself as years pass without resolution and the gordian knot of trouble only grows tighter.
Of course, these events are not unfolding in the United States but in Syria. Try as we may we will never know the heartache that has so defined the lives of the people of that country since 2011. Their nation sits on the Mediterranean Sea just across from Egypt bordering the countries of Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. The war has displaced more than two million people and stretched the resources of their neighbors and countless European nations. Diplomatic and military efforts have failed to broker any kind of resolution and all the while terrorist groups like ISIL have taken advantage of the situation to make their own claims on the land and its citizens. Shia Muslims have taken to fighting with Sunni Muslims. Russia, China, and Iran side with Syrian President Assad. The United States, Germany, Britain and France have attempted to aid the rebels. It is a standoff that threatens the Middle East, Europe and much of the rest of the world.
I cry for the people of Syria. I understand that the vast majority of them simply want to be left alone and allowed to return to their homes where they might live in peace. None of the rest of us want war either. Nobody seems to have any idea of what is the most effective solution to a daunting problem. Here in the United States we have learned that sending troops and treasure to fight battles can be a solution with no endgame. We have also seen that diplomacy does little. We are caught in a conundrum in which the choices are all unpleasant and the results are uncertain. Do we do nothing and let the people of Syria figure out the path to eventual peace or do we choose a side and commit to fighting for what we believe is right?
The answer to such a question is both confusing and frightening. If we stay out of the fray, things may only escalate and make the situation even more dangerous for all of the world. If we show force we may become involved in a fight from which we cannot extricate ourselves without great loss of life. It feels as though even the wisdom of Solomon might be wanting in knowing what to do.
Today is Good Friday, a day on which we remember the crucifixion and death of Jesus of Nazareth. Politics and religious debates were in full force in the time of Christ just as they are today. An innocent man was put to death for fear that his teachings might result in a rebellion that would topple the power structure. Two thousand years later mankind is still feuding over differences in beliefs but millions in all parts of the globe now follow the lessons of Jesus. His message was powerful and his disciples spread the good news of his word in spite of their own persecutions. It is rather amazing to realize that Jesus Christ is even more revered today than he was when he walked in the Middle East two thousand years ago.
This is a time of reflection and prayer in the world. Perhaps it should also be the moment when we join with people of all faiths in imploring the heavens to help us find a resolution to the unrest that so threatens all of us. We can be inspired by the life of Christ whose constant admonition and example was that we forgive and love. I wonder how we can possibly solve the problems of other nations when we continue to be so hateful with one another right here in the United States. It is truly time for us to set our personal differences aside one individual at a time. It is the moment for us to shed our pride, our hypocrisies and our obstinance. Those are the elements that lead to a Syrian-like war. First come the words and then come the weapons. We must do whatever we need to bind the wounds that have turned brother against brother right here in our own nation. Perhaps once we have learned to be civil with one another again we will enjoy the combined wisdom of many points of view in finding solutions to the problems that plague our world. I truly fear our future if we fail to return to a state of understanding and humanity within our own ranks. It is only in valuing our collective differences that we will be able to exert the power needed to propel ourselves and the world in the direction of good.