|Image released by the Syrian opposition's Shaam News Network following what Syrian rebels claim to be a toxic gas attack by pro-government forces in eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus on 21 August 2013.|
Last night, Parliament rejected the prospect of immediate military strikes by UK armed forces against the Syrian regime, following the appalling use of chemical weapons in Ghouta on 21 August. The UN inspectors are still investigating the incident and will report soon. The days since the attack have made us ache with impatient sorrow. It's not surprising that the outrage that all of us feel at such suffering should lead to the sentiment that 'we must do something'.
Saying that something must be done is precisely a sentiment. It's a powerful and natural emotional response to the horror of what we see. Emotion has its place in decision-making. We should not be afraid sometimes to act on our emotions but in the heat of our feeling we mustn't confuse reaction with proper response. It's too easy to allow our emotional reaction to become our trigger, instead of finding creative impulses to action that are inspired by a bigger vision of a peaceful future. We need to reach far beyond ourselves to know what we should do.
For something, truly, must be done. The question we should ask ourselves is what that might be. Is the cause of ultimate justice and peace, not only in Syria but across the region, best served by the unleashing of our own arsenals? Or, through the UN and by unstinting work among the frightening tangle of allegiances and enmities in the Middle East, might we encourage ways of at least slowing the cycles of atrocity and retribution?
Christians believe that prayer is a positive action. It is one of the 'somethings' that must be done.
Join us in praying for reconciliation in Syria:
God of history,(This prayer is from the Church of England and may be reproduced freely).
Witness of the struggles within families;
we pray for the divided family of Syria
as brother fights against brother,
and sister rejects sister.
We pray for those whose love of neighbour
has been destroyed in the bitterness of enmity.
May fear be submerged in compassion.
May distrust be diluted by hope,
as a vision of peace illuminates
darkened minds and hate-filled hearts.
We pray in the name of Christ,
our source of light and love. Amen.