National Council of Churches deplores Syrian chemical attack, and urges President Obama to use restraint in military response

Washington, August 30, 2013 – As the United States considers a military response to the use of chemical weapons by the government of Syria, the National Council of Churches has issued the following statement:

1. In any political dispute, we deplore the use of military solutions. Since its founding in 1950 in the wake of World War II and at the beginning of the Korean War, the NCC has declared its conviction that war is always contrary to the will of God.

2. We particularly deplore the horrendous violence unleashed by both sides in the Syria civil war that has resulted in a dismaying loss of life and property, and has placed severe burdens on the entire region as thousands of refugees seek safety outside the borders of Syria.

3. In particular, we condemn the use of chemical weapons by the government of Syria that has killed and maimed thousands of innocent children, women, and men. This senseless, evil act is horrifying, even against the background of the unspeakable carnage each side has already wrought against the other. All who have been responsible for this chemical attack must search their consciences and ask God for forgiveness and for the courage to refuse to participate in future attacks.

4. We welcome the resolve of President Obama and other leaders to stop future chemical attacks against an innocent populace. However, we are deeply skeptical that U.S. military action against Syria will prevent future attacks. Indeed, we fear such action may have consequences beyond U.S. planning and control, including more death and widespread destruction.

5. We acknowledge the courage of British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has said the United Kingdom will not participate in punitive attacks on Syria because of the clearly stated opposition of the British people and the House of Commons. We call on President Obama to listen carefully to similar debates in the U.S. Congress and among the U.S. public.

6. We urge President Obama to use restraint in deciding upon military solutions, and to renew his efforts to build a political coalition within the United Nations to continue to isolate the Syrian government from the family of nations and place irresistible moral and economic pressure on Syria to refrain from the use of chemical weapons against innocent people.

7. We call on all persons of faith to pray for all leaders who are faced with the terrible decisions of war, including the President of the United States whose clear intention is to protect the innocent.


Archbishop Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, a member communion of the NCC, disavowed the NCC statement and said the Syrian government cannot be accused of carrying out the attack before the United Nations confirms it. Karim said the NCC statement 'does not represent nor does it express our church opinion'.


Please see also Syrian Christians and the Exaltation of the Cross, a reflection by Antonios Kireopoulos, associate general secretary of the National Council of Churches, Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations.

Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37 member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 646-853-4212 (cell), [email protected]