“For we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).
Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace in Syria
Once again the drums resound with the calls to war. Government leaders here in the United States speak with force, trying to rally the country around the will to violence. They have done so before, speaking about different peoples and different parts of the world, and yet the drums all sound the same.
For members of the Church of the Brethren these calls for resolute military action ring hollow. Our confession of Jesus as Lord has consistently called us to ways of peaceful action, to restore relationships through nonviolence and nonresistance. We have spoken plainly that “All war is sin.”
Following on the World Day of Peace in Assisi, Italy, in 2011, hosted by the Pope Benedict XVI, we now stand with Pope Francis in a call to a Day of Fasting and
Prayer for Peace in Syria. Pope Francis has identified Saturday, Sept. 7, for “each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all [women and] men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can” ( http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/09/01/pope:_angelus_appeal_for_peace_(full_text)/en1-724673 and www.brethren.org/news/2011/assisi-event-calls-for-peace-as-human-right.html ).
We fast, not as a protest, but as a way of seeking God’s consolation for the victims of violence.
We fast as an act of solidarity with the people of Syria, especially fellow Christians.
We fast as a way of seeking peace within our hearts and in our way of living.
We fast to discern ways to provide a witness for peace to the powers and principalities.
We fast to lament the ways of violence in our world.
We fast to repent of war.
We fast to seek after God, longing for the place where our longings for peace and God’s will meet.
May the murmurs of our hearts be carried by the Spirit who “intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Romans 8:26b).
We invite our sisters and brothers to consider ways to share this day of prayer and fasting with others of the Christian community by:
— Gathering for public prayers for peace with other Christians.
— Hosting interfaith gatherings to understand better the conflict in Syria from cultural and religious perspectives.
— Making computers available to share letters of concern with elected officials (find the Action Alert from the Office of Public Witness at http://cob.convio.net/site/MessageViewer?em_id=23841.0&dlv_id=29842 ).
— Actively praying for Christian leaders in Syria, especially Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and Metropolitan Boulous Yazigi who have been held captive since April 2013.
— Opening our worship spaces for vigil prayers for peace.
— Reading and sharing the letter to President Obama sent by a coalition of religious and humanitarian groups including the Church of the Brethren ( http://fcnl.org/assets/issues/middle_east/25orgs_Military_Strikes_Not_the_Answer_in_Syria.pdf ).
— Reaffirming our theology of peace through the shared study of scripture and related statements by the Church of the Brethren and our sister denominations: find Annual Conference statements at www.brethren.org/ac including Peacemaking: The Call of God’s People in History, 1991; find the World Council of Churches statement “An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace” at www.overcomingviolence.org/fileadmin/dov/files/iepc/resources/ECJustPeace_English.pdf .
Stanley J. Noffsinger
Church of the Brethren
— This statement was written in consultation with Josh Brockway, director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship; Nathan Hosler, director of the Office of Public Witness; and Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services.
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