Syria: Open Letter to the American People
NOBEL LAUREATES, 4 Nov 2013
My dear friends,
As a teenager living in Belfast, I admired the American Peace Movement and many prominent figures within it. Fifty years later, two of the most inspiring people still remembered across the world are Americans: Martin Luther King and Dorothy Day.
American peace activists and civil rights workers were imprisoned, some killed. But a generation spoke and sang about love.
Like Mahatma Gandhi in India, the Berrigan Brothers in the Peace Movement and the American Civil Rights Movement show us that the path to freedom and equality is a peaceful one. This journey of transformation in the pursuit of peace and justice is a constant challenge to the entrenched powers which thrive on hatred and war; acting as a constant challenge to blind prejudice and the lies that are necessary for war.
In making this journey of love we must always acknowledge that those we regard as enemies are fellow human beings and we are called to love them. If we don’t, when do the killing fields stop?
I first came to you from Northern Ireland to speak about what was happening in my country. I was met with great kindness in America. Now I write to you about Syria.
We must not allow a war to go on for decades, as many in Ireland did. We must have the foresight to stand up for peace, nonviolence and reconciliation now, before the suffering is entrenched and before prejudices and lies seep deeply into the consciousness of a new generation, acting as seeds for yet more war.
I write to ask your help for the people of Syria. They deserve your attention. Like you, they want the opportunity to live, love and labour in support of their children’s dreams. With your efforts we can make it a bright future in a peaceful and prosperous country where love will conquer all.
The people of Syria are a diverse people, a courageous and generous people with a proud history of tolerance. Over many centuries, their country has welcomed millions of disparate people seeking refuge just as the United States has done.
I visited Syria in May 2013. Despite the ongoing violence, I found it to be a land of hope. I met tribal and religious leaders, political dissidents and grieving parents and widows. In Syria there are millions of ordinary folk risking their lives for a peaceful, reconciled and united Syria they can all love.
Mother Agnes Mariam, one of the leaders of the Mussalaha (reconciliation) Movement in Syria, is on a speaking tour of America this November. Mother Agnes Mariam has sat at a table with the prime minister of Syria and has eaten olives with a rebel leader. And recently she risked her life to negotiate the safe passage of thousands of civilians and of many fighters from a conflict zone.
Your heroes, the heroes we all uphold, show us that bridges of nonviolence and peace must be built between peoples. War stems from hatred and lies. Peace requires courage, wisdom, love. And foresight.
Mother Agnes is bringing to America a universal message your country knows well. She presents it through the story of Syria. I encourage you to hear the story of Syria.
1 November, 2013
Mairead Corrigan Maguire is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. She won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. Her book The Vision of Peace (edited by John Dear, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a preface by the Dalai Lama) is available from www.wipfandstock.com. She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. See: www.peacepeople.com.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 4 Nov 2013.
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