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11 September 2013

Young Christians ask: Is there a better way for Syria?

Young Christians ask: Is there a better way for Syria?

Some things just feel so overwhelming that we as ordinary Christians are rendered powerless to do anything. The conflict in Syria is one of those things.

But this week, a group of Christians in their 20s and 30s – brought together by the Evangelical Alliance's threads community gathered to think around the issues and come up with practical ways that we can help.

Following a vote against military intervention by the UK's parliament a fortnight ago, and as the US congress debates whether they should intervene militarily in the conflict; it seems that evangelicals across the world are against such action being taken.

A survey by the National Association of Evangelicals in the US on Tuesday found that 62.5 per cent of evangelical leaders were against military intervention, while 37.5 per cent were pro. The decision came as a surprise to many, including NAE president Leith Anderson who said: "I expected the answers would be the other way around."

Our own poll last week found that 80 per cent were anti-military intervention.

Speaking in Jordan last week, Dr Geoff Tunnicliffe, general secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance, said: "I think I can say that there is a major consensus amongst the Christian leaders in this region that any military intervention by the United States will have a detrimental effect on the situation and in particular for Christians in Syria. Christians have already been threatened in Syria by some of the opposition indicating that a post regime Syria will be Muslim and Christians will not be welcome."

However, the possible responses to the situation could include far more than a straight decision between military intervention or not. And that's what was discussed at the threads gathering on Monday evening in central London, which included talks from various perspectives on the conflict. Among those gathered were representatives from Tearfund, Christian Aid and Open Doors, as well as a young person from Aleppo in Syria who gave the insider perspective.

Phil Green, the Alliance's programme manager and part of the threads team, who organised the event, explained: "There was a growing sense that what is happening in Syria cannot, and must not, be ignored. But what can we do? The issues are just so complex. There was also a growing sense that although everyone we speak to is against military intervention, there is nevertheless a feeling that some intervention is essential. But what are the other options? Is there a better way?

"threads is a collective, we want to be able to connect people in their 20s and 30s to wrestle with issues of faith and life, and grapple with the question: is there a better way? But we don't just want to think, we want to act. The evening, although frustrating because it highlighted just how complex issues were and how in many ways the situation is bleak, it was encouraging as there are genuine non-military options. There is hope bubbling up from within Syrian civil society, which we could support, and there are things that we can do to make a difference; both in terms of influencing national and global politics and supporting the humanitarian efforts financially. We were reminded that this is one of those times where our money can really make a difference."

The threads gathering were reminded again of the importance of praying for peace in the region, for the local and national governments involved and for those providing humanitarian care.

There was also a call for us as Christians in the UK to consider how we can help practically, such as giving to the variety of different organisations with Syria humanitarian crisis appeals, or writing to and meeting up with our local MPs to discuss the issue.

threads is a collective of people in their 20s and 30s exploring faith and life, which was launched in August 2012 and is run by the Evangelical Alliance. Visit their website for more information.