By Mairead Maguire
Nobel Peace Laureate
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 to you about what was happening in my country. I was met with great kindness in America. Now I write to you to about Syria.
We must not allow a war to go on for decades, as many did in regards to Ireland. 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 more yet more war.
I write to you to ask your help for the people of Syria. All the people of Syria 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 on-going 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 has 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 bridges of nonviolence and peace must be built between people. War stems from hatred and lies. Peace requires courage, wisdom, and 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.
Peace in Syria: Speech by Mairead Maguire in Warsaw, Poland. Oct.2013
In May, 2013 I led a 16 person peace delegation into Syria at the invitation of Mussalaha National Movement in what we witnessed happening inside Syria was not fairly depicted in the International media which was not reporting gross violations against international law and humanitarian international law by foreign countries and fighters that are using a proxy war for the purpose of Regime change and geo-strategical benefits. We would remind those foreign governments who are training and funding foreign fighters that it is illegal under United Nations Charter to arm forces to topple elected governments. During our visit we witnessed that the civilian population was and still is, suffering the invasion of thousands of foreign fighters from many countries, who are fuelling insecurity, death, chaos, and destruction everywhere. The ongoing tension in Syria is fuelled by sectarian violent Islamic ideology that pushes Rebels to the most cruel acts of barbarism against their opponents. This invasion of Syria by outside forces has caused one of the greatest humanitarian crises since World War Two. Over l00,000 people dead, thousands internally displaced and over a million refugees fleeing Syria into surrounding countries. It is important that the UN and all international bodies, and host countries, continue to give as much help to the Syrian refugees who lives have been shattered by this ongoing humanitarian tragedy.
We lament the international media propaganda coverage of the Syrian crisis that did not report the truth of what was happening in Syria, but rather gave a false narrative of the true situation inside Syria. We lament that Syria has been weakened by so much violence of insurgency groups and has been led down the path of sectarian violence instigated by the west and some gulf states. The media has a responsibility to expose the information warfare that is being carried out, through fake videos, lies, and propaganda, and are using the suffering of the Syrian people, in a most cruel form to appeal to the emotions of international community in an attempt to get further support in funding and arms and try to force the world community to military intervention. However, in spite of the information war being carry out by rebels and some proxy human rights groups many people around the world remembering Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya, don’t trust the simplistic narrative being fed to them by mainstream media are saying no to military intervention and yes to supporting the reconciliation and peace movement and political dialogue as a way to solving the conflict.
We support the courage of the High Commission for Human Rights for its endeavour to conduct fact finding mission to unveil the terrible reality of the Syrian crisis and help prevent the ongoing ethnic, religious and political cleansing that is happening in this country in the name of freedom and democracy.
The Syrian state should not be dismantled and the economic sanctions that are causing much suffering to the people of Syria should be lifted immediately. No outside military intervention or support for militants should be allowed. The International community should put pressure on those countries who are fuelling terror to stop and should encourage all parties toattend the Geneva II peace conference to give the Syrian people the right to self-determination through legal elections without foreign interference to achieve an honourable transformation towards a peaceful future and participation in the free democratic world. We applaud the work of the chemical weapons team to destroy Syrian chemical weapons, and we hope it will work for the destruction of all chemical weapons, including Israel’s. The continued negotiations, which should include Syria and regional governments, should be fully supported by the west. This will include talking to President Assad’s Government and opposition forces in order to reach a negotiated settlement. The issue is not who talks to who, but how quickly can all parties to the conflict, talk together in order to save lives and save Syria from being further destroyed and divided. We encourage all those who are using violence to stop and to participate in peaceful dialogue now to save Syria.
There is a growing recognition that there will not be a military and paramilitary solution to the Syrian conflict or the Middle East conflict, but only through dialogue and negotiation can peace be reached.
We pay tribute to the great work of so many of the religious leaders, both Muslim and Christian, and to many in the Syrian Civil society who in spite of so much suffering have continued to bravely work for an end to violence and engage in dialogue with everyone.
We would encourage people to give support to Mother Agnes Mariam and the Mussalaha national movement in Syria working with all the componentsof the Syrian society for peace, forgiveness and reconciliation as a preparation for a final political settlement for the people of Syria.
Nobel peace laureate