I am an American. I am not a politician. I am not a historian. I cannot pretend to know all the facts regarding international affairs and I cannot know for certain that the news stories I hear are not biased. I read the news and try my best to stay up to date on current events both here in America and in other areas of the world. I am proud to be an American. Sure we have our problems. Not everything is perfect in America. But I enjoy my freedoms, respect my country, and honestly do love living here. That is not to say that there are times when I disagree with political decisions. Nor do I know what our course of action should be in international affiars.
Like most Americans, I distinctly remember September 11, 2001. The images, the video, the stories stick with you. Just as vividly, I can recall the debate that ensued in the years to come. Who was to blame? An attack had occurred on American soil. Clearly something had to be done, but what? How do you launch a war on “terrorism” when we cannot be certain who may be classified as a terrorist and where they may be located? The result was the deployment of U.S. and NATO troops to Afghanistan for a war which has been ongoing ever since. Now over a decade later, thousands of thousands of soldiers are still on active duty in Afghanistan.
Shortly after the start of the war in Afghanistan the talk of a new war began again. Allegations against Iraq’s possession and potential use of weapons of mass destruction created a divide in America and abroad. Were there weapons? If so, would they actually be put to use? Sadaam Hussein was widely known for his brutality and cruel dictatorship, but whose responsibility was it to fix? The media was no help in the debate. Depending on what news station you watched, what reports you read, you could hear a variety of “facts” about the situation at hand. The fact that 9/11 was still so vivid in the minds of Americans certainly did not help matters as the situation was presented in a manner that seemed to say if Sadaam was not stopped…what could happen next? Should the U.S. wait for a UN decision and act as a unified front or go it alone? In 2003, for better or worse, a US and UK led coalition went into Iraq. War ensued, Sadaam was captured and executed, the regime toppled, and troops remained in Iraq until 2011 when the war was officially over. Despite all of that, Iraq is still faced with internal conflicts and violence leaving the question lingering…did international involvement help?
Now it seems we are on the brink of entering into another war. The allegations of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons on civilians has prompted an international response. The response is varied throughout the international community. With Russia and China strongly opposed to military intervention, the UN pleading for more time and further investigation, and the US and its Western allies already beginning talks of the best military action to be taken, should the decision be made to do so…Who is right? Is intervention necessary? How long do we wait? What proof will be needed? If it does come to military intervention, are we looking at another full blown war? Will troops be sent out? Or will we rely on long range missiles. How will Syria and its allies react? Will they fight back? The questions come and come and without any real decisions having been made yet, the answers are unknown.
I do not know the “right” answer. Just as I did not known nor do I know now if the appropriate action was taken in Afghanistan and Iraq. What I do know is this: innocent civilian men, women, and children are dying in Syria. But whose responsibility is it to help? And where do we stop? Certainly many other nations around the world are involved in conflicts and deal with violence and uprising within their own political systems. Egypt. Sudan. Israel and Palestine. The Congo. The list goes on and on. Certainly we cannot become involved in every conflict overseas. We cannot “fix” every problem. And who is to say that our “fix” is the “right” one? With America being involved in Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years, I would venture to say that almost every American either knows someone who was deployed overseas, or knows someone who does. Friends, neighbors, relatives. Men and women who fought bravely. Some who gave their lives. Do we want to send more Americans into another war? Will this be another “Iraq” situation?
With all these thoughts running through my head as I read the headlines, one passage comes to mind:
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:30-37)
I cannot help but hear the reports of people in need and think of this parable. Who is neighbor to those suffering in Syria? We may not know the victims, but we are called to help our neighbors in need. Whether that “neighbor” is truly next door to us or half a world away is irrelevant. We are called to show mercy to those in need.
I am not saying war or military intervention is the answer. But I am saying that we need to do something. Not just the United States. And not just in Syria. We are called as Christians regardless of the country we live in and the allegiances we hold to show mercy to those who need it. How can we do this? I certainly don’t have the money or resources to personally reach out to every victim of violence, poverty, hunger…even just in America let alone the world! I cannot begin to know where the help is most needed or what the “proper” action is to take. What I do know is that we are called to do something.
Here is what we can do. We can pray. The only One who truly knows what is best in any situation is the Lord. Jesus tells us “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20) There are certainly more than two or three Christians out there. Despite the fact that we may not all be gathered physically in the same place, we are all One in Christ. We all need to join together and pray for peace in Syria and in all the world. We need to join together in prayer for political leaders of every nation to be led by the Holy Spirit and to do what is truly best for their country. We need to pray for the victims of violence and war and indeed we even must pray for those perpetuating the destruction, that their hearts might be changed.
There will always be war, violence, hunger, poverty, sadness, and despair so long as there is sin in the world. Even with unlimited resources to help those in need, as long as sin exists, so will death and destruction. There will come a day when the sadness will end, when destruction will be no more, when war will be obsolete. When Jesus restores His kingdom on earth, peace will reign. Until that time, we cannot escape the reality of war in our world. I pray that President Obama and the leaders of all nations will be guided by the Lord in any decision they make, particularly in regard to Syria. I pray that the Lord will watch over all those involved and send His angels to protect those who need it the most. I may not be able to solve the world’s problems.
I may not know the solution to the war in Afghanistan or what was the “right” thing to do in Iraq. I may not know what should be done next in Syria. But I know the One who does know. And I know that He hears our prayers. Let us all join as One people in the Lord in prayer for the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit to rest on the decision makers of our nations and for the true and lasting peace of the Lord to overcome the darkness of war and destruction in Syria and in all the world.