I'll be joining many others in praying for the situation in Syria on Saturday because I think it's time we realize that Dr. King was right: we can't cure violence with violence.
Mirroring violent behavior sets vicious cycles of offense and revenge in motion. We need a more creative response - not passivity, not inaction, but something more creative and constructive than "punishing" or "retaliating" or trying to cure violence with violence.
Here's a prayer that expresses what is on my heart (feel free to use or adapt as is helpful):
"Living God, our world is broken-hearted by the atrocity of chemical weapons being used in Syria, killing children, women, and men indiscriminately. And our hearts grieve no less for the many tens of thousands killed and millions displaced by the civil war there.
We pray for peace, God of peace: not just the cessation of conflict, but a new day of reconciliation, civility, and collaboration for the common good ... in the Middle East, and around the world.
We also pray for the United States, whose leaders are contemplating military strikes in retaliation for the atrocity, to punish those who ordered it, and to deter those who might plan similar atrocities in the future. We acknowledge that our leaders are trying to do what is needed and right, based on the understanding they have. But on this day, as millions of us around the world pray, we ask for greater wisdom, greater understanding, greater foresight, so that we can find new, better, and non-violent ways to achieve lasting and profound peace.
We know from bitter experience that "our" violence promises to end "their" violence, but in the end, it only intensifies vicious cycles of offense and revenge. We also know from bitter experience that inaction and passivity also aid and abet evil. So on this day, we seek your wisdom, for a better way forward ... a new way that we do not yet see.
We Americans sense that our nation is on the verge of rethinking its role in the world. In this moment of rethinking, we also pray for guidance. Help us learn from past mistakes, and help us imagine better possibilities for the future. In this time of political tension and turmoil - not only between, but within our political parties - may your Spirit move like the wind and give us a fresh vision of what can be, so that we do not repeat old, tired, and destructive cycles of what has been. May the wisdom and ways of Jesus, upon whom your Spirit descended like a dove, guide us now - to a wise and responsible role as good neighbors in our world. Amen.
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