I fear the same question will haunt the human community 25 years from now as the world remembers the unfolding tragedy in Syria in which most recently nearly 100 died, many of them children, from the horrendous use of chemical weapons, probably sarin gas.
As we consider our response to this crime against humanity, we should start by listening to our Syrian neighbors here in Connecticut, and if we did we would learn that Bashar Al Assad is a cruel tyrant and dictator who long before this latest crisis perpetrated crimes against humanity against the people of his own country, including the previous use of chemical weapons.
As our country debates the recent air strike authorized by President Trump, whether we agree with that response or not, surely there is much that our faith communities and the wider peace community can do in response to the crisis in Syria.
25 years ago a cellist played his hauntingly beautiful music in the rubble of Sarajevo and so helped the world to see the tragedy of that war. Remembering the persuasion of that cellist, in the coming weeks and months, I call upon all our churches, mosques and synagogues and all other faith communities to have a musician, preferably a child – a cellist or a violinist – play an elegy for our prayer services in memory of the children being slaughtered in Syria. Yes, even and especially Easter Sunday, for how can there be a celebration of resurrection without an acknowledgment of current crucifixions? May these moments of elegy move us as a human community from andante to allegro in our response.
Surely, we can agree that what Syria needs is not more war but megatons of compassion, megatons of food, water, and medical supplies. May our elegies for children move us to support such great organizations as Doctors Without Borders.
But also, may our elegies for the children of Syria move us to reclaim our prophetic voice. May they move us to listen to our Syrian neighbors and so be inspired to speak out against all forms of militarism, nationalism, xenophobia and hate. With the advent of nuclear weapons and other forms of weaponry, Albert Einstein said, “Everything has changed except our way of thinking, and so we drift toward unparalleled disaster.” In the horrendous images of children dying on the streets of Syria, we have yet another tragic reminder of that wisdom. We have to be teachers of a different way of thinking. We need to rid the world of all forms of weapons of mass destruction, and collectively, we need to persuade our elected officials to move from strategies and economies of war to a diversified economy of peace.
For those in the Christian tradition, next Friday is Good Friday — a day in which the tragic crucifixion is remembered. I am of the persuasion that a crucifixion takes place wherever and whenever a child dies or suffers because of our insanity. Surely another crucifixion has taken place with the children of Syria. I hope and I pray that there will not be another crucifixion in our conspiracy of silence.