They all come for violence, with faces pressing forward; they gather captives like sand. At kings they scoff, and of rulers they make sport. They laugh at every fortress and heap up earth to take it. Then they seep by like the wind; they transgress and become guilty. Their own might is their god! (Habakkuk 1:9–11)

In common with people everywhere, we watch with horror and shame as extreme violence in Syria is met with yet another reaction of violence. Devoid of any coherent and consistent long-term strategy for a political solution, founded on debatable moral justification and lacking democratic legitimacy on all sides, such military actions and reactions will not reduce civilian suffering, displacement and death or bring peace any nearer. Rather, they only serve to demonstrate the complete lack of political will and imagination for diplomatic solutions (which are not yet exhausted), and the failure of any meaningful action to protect civilian populations on the part of state actors who are, without exception, mired in complicity in a global arms trade which facilitates death and destruction on a massive scale.

In a situation in which our parliamentary representatives are themselves sidelined, it is important that we do what we can, rather than simply lamenting what we can’t. Humanitarian support for Syrian refugees and displaced people in our own countries is a vital part of long-term peacebuilding. Members of the Iona Community are involved in many such initiatives. The links below may be helpful.

And as we pray for peace in Syria, and for all its suffering people, we share this meditation written by one of our members for a vigil for Syria:

Sometimes the moment comes

Sometimes the moment comes
for silence
and candlelight
and mourning.

Sometimes the moment comes
when it is in silence
and with candle flame

that we show

that our hearts are broken;

our tongues weary of protest;

our despair at hopelessness
too deep for our words.

We make this silent sign
A sign which flickers.
A sign of light.
A sign of remembrance.

We mourn the deaths of friends we never had,
families broken by grief;
lives shattered by terror;
friends lost to the seas;
to the crossing of the deserts;
to the wars of our making;
to our stubborn inhumanity.

It is so easy to destroy a life.

A candle flame
is vulnerable,
a sign of light
against the darkness of death.

A sign of sharing.

Sometimes the moment comes
for silence
and candlelight
and mourning.

Sometimes a time comes
when we can take no more
of the suffering of our sisters
and brothers.

When we see clearly;
we see

now is the time,
now is the time

To affirm love.
To affirm life.
To affirm compassion.
To hold fast to hope
in the goodness
at the heart of humanity.

Which is planted more deeply than all that is wrong.

Sometimes the moment comes
for silence
and candlelight
and mourning.

– Alison Swinfen, adapted


Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees

Churches Together in Britain and Ireland

Church responds to ‘deeply concerning’ Syrian airstrikes, from the Church of Scotland website

Displacement rocks Syria and the death toll continues to rise, from the Christian Aid website

The Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe


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