Brothers and sisters,*

The situation in Syria, changing by the hour as it seems to do, is of great concern to us all. Because we live in the United States, the situation raises questions for us about the just use of great power and about our country’s place in the world community.

But the fighting in Syria also touches our hearts because of the magnitude of human suffering there. We are devastated by the large numbers of non-combatant deaths and frightened for the fate of Christian communities which are among the oldest in the world.

130912fbdpullquoteOur synod’s Global Mission unit has called on me to invite you to prayer and fasting, to study and conversation about the fighting in Syria. Their statement follows. You can find information on the ELCA and Lutheran World Relief websites about what we are already doing to respond to the suffering of the Syrians. If you can fast, consider donating the money you don’t spend on food to an organization that is caring for Syrian refugees. Ask your Muslim neighbors what they make of the situation.

And ask God to send peace. Pray by yourself, or find somebody to pray with. Pray for the people hurt or endangered by the fighting. Pray for the people driven from their homes. Pray for the people trying to help, and for the leaders of the nations who are called by God to care for the common good. Ask God to have mercy on us all and to lead us all into the ways of peace.

In Jesus,
Bishop Richard H. Graham
Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Statement on the Crisis in Syria
by the Global Mission Committee of the Metro D.C. Synod

We are deeply concerned about the horrific events taking place in Syria. As a nation and as people of faith we are obligated to respond. The use of chemical weapons to indiscriminately kill children, women and men demands a response by the international community. In the face of the massacre of tens of thousands of civilians, we cannot be silent.

130912fbdcmteepullquoteWe acknowledge the calls to pursue diplomatic means to resolve this issue that have come from many sources, including the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, and the Rt. Rev. Munib A. Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation and bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCHJL). Calls for peaceful resolution are implicit in the Kairos Palestine document as received in the “Kairos Palestine Response” resolution adopted by the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod.

We acknowledge the complexity of this issue, including the ethical ambiguities inherent in the choice of any course of action. We are unable to foresee with precision the consequences that might result from military action. Our own discussion has found consensus in the hope that a “third way” might be found, an option that avoids military action on the one hand and silence on the other.

In this critical moment of history we believe it is absolutely vital that the members of the congregations of our synod become actively involved in the present discussion.

We therefore urge the Bishop of our synod to call on all congregations of the synod, in light of the ongoing conflict in Syria and in the face of a proposed military response, to provide an occasion for discernment and prayer on behalf of the people of Syria, this to include fasting, study of the issues and ecumenical and interfaith dialogue and action.

September 8, 2013

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* The original version of this message was distributed to rostered leaders of the synod on 9/12/13.