Sweeney Issues Statement on Cycle of Violence in the Middle East

On December 2, Ian Sweeney, president of Seventh-day Adventist Church in the UK & Ireland released the following statement about violence in Iraq and Syria.


2nd December 2015

The increasing levels of violence and numbers of displaced people resulting from atrocities in Iraq, Syria and other war torn parts of the world fill our hearts with sorrow. We stand in solidarity with those who have lost loved ones, livelihoods and homes. Our fervent prayers are with all those who suffer.

Today (2 December), the UK Parliament has voted for our armed forces to engage in air strikes in Syria. While there is full recognition that the issues surrounding the fight against terrorism are complex and nuanced, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is nevertheless committed to pursuing and exhibiting peace.

As a Church we express our grave concern about the ongoing violence in Syria which continues to bring loss of life, misery and suffering to innocent men, women and children and the displacement of some 3 million Syrians.

We call on all sides engaged in the Syrian conflict to cease military activities and resort to peaceful methods of resolving the conflict. It is our belief that dialogue and negotiations, however difficult, are preferable to violence and war.

While we understand that peace cannot be found in official statements, we will nevertheless seek to bring some measure of peace, wherever we can, to those whose lives have been touched by war.

The belief that violence should be repaid with violence is against our Christian biblical understanding and does not deliver the intended results. We endorse the sentiments of the late Dr Martin Luther King Jr when he said,

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

SEE ALSO: 2003 Adventist World Church statement on the War in Iraq. Pray for Paris, Pray for France.

Killing in the Name

Jeff Carlson, associate pastor of the Fletcher Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hendersonville, NC, wrote the following reflection on the recent violence in Paris, France. The god in who's name people are dying in Paris tonight is not Allah, though they mistakenly use that name to describe him.

He is actually the same god in who's name the KKK and other American Christian white supremacists killed their victims. And though they invoked the name, Jesus, to describe that god, that is also not his name.

He is the same god who demanded the blood of Jews at the hands of Russians, Germans, Polish and every other European Christian who stretched out their hand against the "Christ killers" in the name of Christ. Though Christ is also not his name.

He demanded the blood of Protestants at the hands of Catholics; Protestants at the hands of other Protestants; teenage girls called witches at the hands of those who themselves had fled the death-grip of that god on their life in a distant land. Though they all did so in the name of the Trinity, this is not a three-part god. He is one.

His voice has been heeded by secularists of the guillotine; He received the blood sacrifice from the hands of Communists, and Nazis, and Fascists, though he transcends them all.

He held out his hands in the guise of Molech and the people of the ancient world sacrificed their own children to him. That, also, is not his name.

He is not the ancient serpent, or the devil, or Satan or any other name by which he is called.

He is religion; he is secularism; he is totalitarian; he is democratic freedom.

His name is "me." But he never uses that name. He always speaks of "them." And the moment I hear his voice I am least likely to know it is his voice calling for blood. Because he whispers simply that if "they" were gone, "I" would be better, or holier, or righter, or safer.

I heard his voice tonight as the news flowed out of Paris. And I heard his voice whisper in my own soul when I thought "they should just throw all the muslims out of Paris."

If Satan ceased to exist; if all religion, or beliefs of non-religion, political philosophy were erased; if all nationalistic belief was extricated from the human soul and we were left in the state of no beliefs what-so-ever fulfilling the dreams of John Lennon this god would still call out for blood.

His voice transcends all beliefs and time because so do we. And his voice is much too absurd and demanding that we would never listen to him, until we do.

May we hear the one alternate voice tonight. The one that called out on the cross "father forgive them they know not what they do." The voice that calls not for the blood of the "other" for the imagined gain of the "I" but would rather see the blood of "me" flow for the hoped gain of the "other."