The Syria Series//We Haven’t Even Tried//Westin Miller//

Westin Miller is a Cortina Alumn and a former Cortina RA. He currently works as a Leadership Consultant for Beta Theta Pi.  This is where he stands with regard to the possibility of the United States’ intervention in Syria.

I am not a pacifist.

I follow the teaching of Christ, who was no doubt a peacemaker, but I fail to see an example from His life that definitively calls for pacifism in our conversation about Syria. The Bible never gives an account of Jesus responding to violence being perpetrated against an innocent, unarmed person (other than himself).

“But Westin, remember the most obvious example ever? The woman who was going to be stoned?”

You are right. This story teaches us a beautiful lesson that we have an ABSOLUTE OBLIGATION to preemptively intervene peacefully to prevent violence. Whenever possible, we should be challenging those with violent intentions to seek other alternatives. Our challenge should, of course, be peaceful.

In this particular example, the question I always struggle with is “What if the stones had been thrown?”

If your mind takes you to an answer even remotely related to the idea of stepping in front of them, that is our cue to move specifically to Syria. Because you can’t step in front of a missile loaded with Sarin.

The Bible never gives an account of Jesus responding to violence being perpetrated against an innocent, unarmed person.

The Bible certainly never gives an account of Jesus instructing a nation about how to respond to another nation murdering its innocent civilians. In fact, Jesus never addresses foreign policy at all.

If children are being burned alive in Syria, the international community is obligated to attempt nonviolent intervention.

If nonviolent intervention doesn’t work, I think it is possible to justly engage in violence.

The United States has not attempted nonviolent intervention.

We have not exhausted, or even attempted diplomacy. Our international efforts have been to persuade others to join us in violence and to train and arm the combatants, not to dissuade Assad.

Until we exhaust diplomacy, we cannot justly engage in violence.

We haven’t even tried.

The Syria Series//A Twisted Calculus//Tim Nendick//

Tim Nendick is a wanderer and ponderer of the world. When he was a student at Creighton, he was a Cortina Student and then a 2-year Cortina RA. This is where he stands with regard to the possibility of the United States’ intervention in Syria.

Violent intervention gives rise to a twisted calculus: these lives, those dollars, this many bombs.  As our country prepares to attack another, it’s a calculus we must learn to speak.  As critically conscious people, we must learn to rewrite its axioms.

The rationale for strikes in Syria is alleged use of sarin gas, a human rights violation.  I fully support my government peacefully acting in my name when such violations exist, in order to make the world a more just place.  The use of chemical weapons is a grave offense, as are the concentration camps of North Korea, the domestic spying programs of the United States, the massacre of demonstrators in Egypt.  Around the world, we needn’t look far to see our brothers and sisters dehumanized by the societies we create, attacked by a culture of violence.

Ending injustice with tools ultimately designed to destroy and kill precludes justice. Responding in kind to violence in hopes of peace is a fruitless enterprise.  As students, we must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.  As people of faith, we must collectively labor for the Kingdom of God.  As citizens of history’s most powerful empire, we must creatively challenge our leaders.

The financial cost of this intervention is not yet known — quoting a White House Staffer, “Who the f— knows how much it will cost? It depends entirely upon what happens.” We have finite scientific thinkers, natural resources, laborers.  How we chose to invest those things in the betterment of humankind is the ultimate question of justice. Investing them in war-making, destruction is to fundamentally deny our call to be co-creators alongside God.

With each B2 bomber, let us see 16000 full scholarships to Creighton. With each tomahawk missile fired from proud boats, let us see a teacher’s lifetime salary flashing through the air on its way to maim another person. With each speech to the American people, let us hear our leaders justifying killing our fellow humans in the name of peace.

Let us hear, see these things and be confused.  Let us cry out, together, no más, no more! Nonviolently, creatively, let’s speak with the violence of Love, the certainty of hope, the promise of peace.

For reflection, I offer a video I made during my own Cortina year of Kurt Vonnegut reading a favorite passage from his Slaughterhouse Five: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTsj3oISJlI

The Syria Series//Creativity in the Face of Destruction//Br. Ken Homan, SJ//

Ken Homan is a Jesuit Brother. When he was a student at Creighton, he was a Cortina Student. This is where he stands with regard to the possibility of the United States’ intervention in Syria.

I have not been following the Syrian conflict as closely as I should.  I blame myself because I have recently focused on other issues (such as the 8.29 Fast Food Strike).  I (we) can no longer ignore the situation in Syria.  It demands our attention.  Why?  Because just like the prophets in the Old Testament, a cry goes up to heaven.  Apathy is the worst of sins, closely followed by inaction.

We can respond with more violence and more bloodshed, but it would not be our own.  From ships out to sea and unmanned drones, we would drop explosives on a country already full of explosions.  And yes, I mean we, as in you and I would be active material participants in this crime.  We cannot excuse it as “our government,” but we are those who fund and participate in this war.  By Catholic Social Teaching, just war and the use of force is a very final resort.  I believe our acknowledging it as any resort, however, moves it to the foreground of our conscience.  It leaves us with a sense of it possibly working.  With onslaught of chemical weapons, we might jump immediately to thoughts of the Holocaust.  Wasn’t that a just war scenario?  I would argue no—evil flourished thereafter and delved deeper into our hearts.  We must be creative.

As both Pope Francis and Fr. General Nicolás have noted, violence will beget more violence.  This violence is not necessarily the violence of men shooting each other, stabbing each other, burning each other’s lungs with chemical weapons.  But this violence includes the horrendous violence of poverty, homelessness, and unjust death.  These are the terrible things we will reap if we send shrapnel flying around another country already distraught by fear.  We will further entrench a Christ-people into death and despair.

We have only one option—love.  Evil leaves us with lackluster ideas and inability to generate new ideas.  Hopelessness.  But the creative power of love overcomes all evil and darkness.  Our only hope here is to act with a creative Christ-love for these Christ-people.  We can no longer kill people for their sins.  But we must engage the fullest mystery of Christ.  WE must die for their sins.  Rather than marching in with guns and cannons firing, I ask you to take this question as seriously as possible: What if I and millions of others simply marched into Syria with gifts of food, water, and shelter, accepting the bullets and blades that may kill us?  What if I die for someone else’s sins?

For more thoughts on the challenges the Syrian conflict gives us and our response, check out this great piece by Sam Sawyer, SJ.  http://thejesuitpost.org/site/2013/09/on-syria-praying-because-we-dont-know-what-to-hope-for/

The Syria Series//Critical Perspectives

Today begins a series on the Cortina blog. Throughout the next few weeks, students, activists, & thinkers will be contributing their critical positions on the looming Syrian intervention. While some of these viewpoints may diverge or offer opposing insights, we hope that the variety of perspectives will help us be better informed and formed in our opinions and actions moving forward as citizens and inhabitants of a powerful nation.

If you are interested in contributing, please email annedimond@creighton.edu.