The debate on a possible U.S.-led military strike on Syria comes to a boil this week with President Barack Obama addressing the nation and a possible vote in Congress, and now, hopefully, a negotiated solution with the help of Russia.
Over the past weeks, religious leaders have added their voices to the debate, including a massive prayer vigil led by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square. Some American religious leaders have been clear in their condemnation of the proposed use of force, others have come out in support of a military intervention and some have been hesitant to weigh in on how best to respond to Bashar Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons.
Below is a list of religious groups that have made statements on the proposed Syrian strikes.
Pope Francis, Catholic Church: NO
Francis has been one of the most vocal opponents of a strike on Syria, and is urging dialogue and diplomacy. He tweeted, "War never again! Never again war!" and led a worldwide day of prayer and fasting on September 7.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB): NO
Following Francis' example, Dolan expressed his opposition to a Syria strike in a letter to Obama released by the USCCB on Sept. 4, saying, "We have heard the urgent calls of the successor of St. Peter, Pope Francis, and our suffering brother bishops of the venerable and ancient Christian communities of the Middle East. As one, they beg the international community not to resort to military intervention in Syria." The USCCB sent letters to every member of Congress on Thursday to urge them not to support a strike.
Islamic Society of North America: UNCLEAR
ISNA, one of the leading groups representing American Muslims, released a statement condemning the killings by the Syrian regime and urging, "all governments and people of conscience to exert maximum pressure on the Syrian regime to immediately cease such attacks and any form of repression that violates the rights of Syrian citizens to live their lives without fear."
Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC): YES
MPAC released a position paper on its Syria stance, detailing the reasons why they support "a conditional strike to deter future use of chemical weapons." They declared, "We therefore support decisive and quick military action with important conditions," which include a total lack of ground troops, precautions to limit civilian harm, avoidance of religious sites, the swift deliverance of aid, and an emphasis on a political transition and rebuilding. MPAC is a national public service agency "working for the civil rights of American Muslims... and for a positive, constructive relationship between American Muslims and their representatives."
Imam Feisal Abd Rauf, chairman of the Cordoba Initiative and co-founder of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA): NO
Rauf's op-ed in the Washington Post drew attention to the collateral damage that's already taken its toll on Syria and urged lawmakers to consider all the possible political repercussions of a strike. The Muslim leader cautioned against a strike of retaliation, which could potentially set the conflict-ridden country on the path to failed statehood. He wrote, "So right now, to work toward a political solution that protects the living and brings a chance for peace is far more important— and would do so much more to enhance America’s credibility— than sending a few missiles in retaliation for the dead."
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church: NO
Warren, pastor of the eighth-largest church in the United States, tweeted opposition to a strike on Syria to his one million-plus followers, saying that it would be like "dropping a lit match on a powderkeg." Warren is a leading evangelical pastor who visited Syria in 2006 in order to try to begin an exchange program with churches there.
Suhag Shukla, executive director of the Hindu American Foundation (HAF): UNCLEAR
Shukla explained in an email to the Huffington Post that HAF does not have an official stance for or against a possible military intervention in Syria, but, "Non-violence is an exalted teaching as the highest form of dharma, righteous action. But the Bhagavad Gita, as well as other Hindu sacred texts, instruct that the same dharma compels a nation to stand up in the face injustice and perform its duty in a way that incurs the least amount of harm." She continued, "Our elected representatives and the President should reflect on practical questions with equanimity of mind -- what the Gita urges one to do in the face of dilemma. Our elected leaders must see past their own personal politics, to make a considered decision and carry out the collective dharma of our nation."
Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals: UNCLEAR
In a statement to Religion News Service, Anderson cited an NAE survey done on Sept. 3, which showed that 62.5 percent of evangelical leaders did not support direct U.S. military intervention in Syria. He said that "evangelicals don’t agree on everything, including what to do about Syria" and did not make an explicit statement for or against a military strike.
Katharine Jefferts Schori, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop: NO
Schori released a statement through the Episcopal Church's office of public affairs on Sept. 13, writing, "I do not believe further violence is likely to end the tragedy, but rather seems likely to increase or prolong the disaster. I applaud President Obama's restraint and willingness to look for diplomatic solutions -- changing position requires courage of the first order. It is a sign of profoundly care-filled leadership both to test the possibility of other, more creative and life-giving solutions and to put the needs of vulnerable populations ahead of one's own image or reputation."
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission: NO
Moore turned to just war theory to frame his opinion regarding a possible strike, saying in a Sept. 3 article that there are "principles missing here, both to justify action morally and to justify it prudentially." Though he feels the first principle of "just cause" has been met due to Assad's "lawless and tyrannical regime," Moore concluded, "If I were in Congress, I would vote 'no' on this war."
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations: YES
Drawing parallels between Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians and the Nazi gassing of Jews during the Holocaust, the conference of 52 national Jewish agencies called on Tuesday for a bipartisan consensus supporting the use of force. They said in a statement that "those who perpetuate such acts of wanton murder must know that they cannot do so with impunity. Those who possess or seek weapons of mass destruction, particularly Iran and Hezbollah, must see that there is accountability.”
American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC): YES
AIPAC came out strongly in favor of a strike on Syria, making a statement that not taking action would weaken the U.S. and its ability to prevent the use of unconventional weapons. They said, "Simply put, barbarism on a mass scale must not be given a free pass."
Metropolitan Philip Saliba, Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of All North America of the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America: NO
Saliba specifically touched on the damage done to the ancient Christian city of Maaloula in his letter to Obama on behalf of the Orthodox church. He wrote, "Mr. President, we appeal to your humanity, and compassion for people to halt consideration of any U.S military action against the Syrian government. This would be a deadly and costly action, and nothing can be gained by it."
Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association: NO
Morales wrote in a Sept. 6 statement that "the Unitarian Universalist Association joins with many other faith groups in urging our government to refrain from the use of military force at this time." He grieved for the loss of life and advocated for the exhaustion of all peaceful diplomatic efforts before putting a military option on the table. However, he still left that option open for future review, writing, "Inaction in the face of slaughter is not a moral option. The situation in Syria might at some point require some form of U.S. military intervention. I pray that this will not be necessary, that peaceful methods can be found to safeguard the lives of the innocent people of Syria."
Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA): NO
Hanson urged President Obama to keep searching for a diplomatic solution to the Syria crisis, stating in a Sept. 3 letter that while "we weep for the victims of the most recent incident … I am nevertheless convinced that any U.S. military intervention within Syria will potentially release even greater suffering on an even wider scale."
The United Church Of Christ (UCC): NO
A Sept. 3 statement said, "The U.C.C. leadership is asking members to raise their collective voice and implore the government not to use a military strike against Syria and instead use all diplomatic and humanitarian means to resolve the crisis." The Protestant church has sent over 3,000 letters to Congress members urging them to vote "no" on a Syria strike.
General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church: NO
United Methodists are being encouraged to express their opposition to military action in Syria. A Sept. 4 call to action said that "United Methodists are asked to contact their members of Congress immediately to register their displeasure at President Obama’s request for Congress to authorize a military strike." The United Methodist Social Principles state, "We believe war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ. We therefore reject war as an instrument of national foreign policy (¶165C)."