[Solidarity] is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all. (On Social Concern/Sollicitudo rei Socialis, #38)
As the violent conflict continued to devastate communities in Syria, Pax Christi International invited friends around the world to fast and to pray for a just peace in that land and to send messages of solidarity to the Syrian people. Messages arrived from many countries, carrying responses from hundreds of people. From New Zealand, Germany, Ethiopia, and Australia – from Canada, Belgium, Italy and Indonesia – from the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan: in one place 10 people were fasting; in another 30 gathered in prayer; in others, 4 women or a whole parish people or a local community or a Pax Christi group prayed and fasted together.
From Japan came a connection to their own experience: After the Japanese military invaded Iraq in 2004 we fasted as a chain each day, and after their withdrawal in 2009 we have continued fasting each 9th of the month. That’s because we consider Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan as a Buddhist prayer for humankind. We are united with those who wail and weep in Syria. We enter and participate in the network of prayer that the road to hope may be opened at the earliest day.
From Toronto came a prayer for a just peace in Syria: Dear God of all Creation – You have blessed us with the gifts of the earth in abundance, so that all may have life. Give us insight so that we may understand the ways in which we are all connected in this human family; Open our ears to the cry of the people of Syria in their time of conflict and suffering; Take away our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh, so that we may act with compassion. We pray for just peace for the people of Syria.
From Gent in Belgium came signatures of well over 100 people who gathered to pray for peace in Syria.
From a community in Washington DC came a message of gratitude and support: We continue to hold you and your country in our thoughts and prayers. We honor your courage and are deeply saddened by your tremendous suffering. We know that each of the 150,000 Syrians killed in the past three years means endless suffering for their families and communities. We are aware of the great history and cultural heritage of Syria and are heartbroken with you at your loss as the violence continues to tear apart your beautiful country. For many years we have known about your generous hospitality to refugees from Iraq and Palestine and we thank you for that. May the world be as generous in return as you struggle to rebuild once the violence ends. We pray that truth, respect for human rights and peace will soon prevail in Syria.
By this small gesture, Pax Christi International tried to express our belief that “Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world,” and that “[a]t the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace….The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.” (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)
Our prayers and fasting, then, were accompanied by national and international advocacy for a negotiated solution to the extreme crisis gripping Syria. Specifically and continuously, we have called for:
- an immediate end to the delivery of arms, ammunition and weapons parts to all combatants in Syria;
- an immediate end to international support for foreign fighters operating in Syria;
- international backing for the efforts of Syrian communities to negotiate local ceasefires and to create durable zones of peace;
- increased humanitarian assistance for the Syrian people displaced within Syria and for those seeking refuge in neighbouring countries;
- guaranteed refugee or temporary protected status for Syrians in flight from the violence.
Pax Chritsti International Co-President