Ending the Violence and Opening our Hearts to Refugees
by Ann Stromquist
President of PEACE Iowa
My heart goes out to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives in the recent attacks in Paris, as well as those in Beirut, Baghdad, the Russian plane, and elsewhere. I abhor the violence perpetrated by ISIS. I can understand the fear that this violence engenders in those who imagine such attacks in our own country. I can understand that an immediate response by some is to want to seek revenge.
When we are angry it’s usually good to stop and take a deep breath before we act. We must take a very deep breath - now - in the face of two huge challenges that our country faces:
How do we respond to the increasing violence perpetrated by ISIS?
How do we respond to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and the families - children, women, and men - who are fleeing a civil war in their country as well as violence by ISIS?
Do we really believe that more bombing will destroy ISIS? Do we really believe that more bombing will create stability in Syria and the rest of the Middle East? Do we really believe that more bombing will create more security in our own country?
Isn’t it true that our actions in the Middle East have only served as recruitment tools for ISIS? And to further destabilize the region? Have we learned anything from our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, countries that are LESS stable and LESS secure as a result of our intervention?
When we bomb an ISIS “target,” we bomb civilians, sometimes those attending a wedding, sometimes those praying in their mosque, sometimes those in their own homes. As we increase our violent response we assist ISIS in their recruitment of young, angry people who blame the United States for its role in supporting (and providing weapons to) authoritarian regimes. ISIS gains in membership only increase the instability and insecurity in Syria and elsewhere, and as instability and insecurity increase, ISIS gains volunteers. A vicious cycle.
We must STOP and THINK before we ACT. How can we work to end the violence in the Middle East and in Syria in particular?
The United States must do all it can to break the cycle of violence – STOP OUR OWN VIOLENT RESPONSES! – and address the causes of instability and violence by working with all parties in the region, as well as the international community, toward political solutions that take into consideration the needs of people for jobs and security.
The other challenge we face is the escalating refugee crisis precipitated by the civil war in Syria. We must welcome families who are fleeing the violence. We must allow ourselves to “walk a mile in their shoes” and imagine how we would want our families to be treated if we were fleeing violence and seeking refuge in another country. Let us do the right thing, what we know in our hearts is right, and welcome Syrian refugees into our communities. Let us call upon our representatives in Congress to ease the humanitarian crisis and act generously. Let us call upon our governor to reverse his cruel rejection of helping to resettle Syrian refugees in Iowa. And let us call upon our representatives in the State Legislature and our municipal governments to continue Iowa’s tradition of welcoming strangers to our midst. If we do so, we will be a better community, state, and nation.
First appeared in the Iowa City Press-Citizen on December 4, 2015.