War and violence are poor tools for addressing the threats of today’s world—and in the past few years, the U.S. public has increasingly started to acknowledge this. This week, the U.S. government did the same.

I am encouraged that President Obama seems to be making room for a diplomatic approach to resolving the chemical weapons crisis in Syria. It’s a real reminder that the choice between military intervention and doing nothing is a false choice. Dialogue, civil resistance, out-of-the box alternatives that no one expects to succeed—there are always other options, and in our experience, it’s those creative nonviolent options that are most likely to bring lasting peace.

Even if an international conflict is averted diplomatically, the civil war in Syria continues. Nearly 7 million Syrians are displaced from their homes, with an average of 5,000 people fleeing into neighboring countries every day, depending primarily on external aid.

Through our staff and partners in the Middle East, AFSC is listening closely to the perspectives of Syrians. And even in the midst of death, destruction, and displacement in Syria, there are still people striving to maintain the fabric of their society.

AFSC has partnered with a U.K.-based nonprofit organization to support a network of courageous Syrian peacemakers who are working on the local level to build a future in which all Syrians can co-exist safely and peacefully.

The network includes people who oppose the regime and those who support it. So far it has reached out to communities who are Sunni Muslim, Alawite, Druze, Ismaili, and Christian, as well as people who identify themselves as secularist.

In one local project, they’re working with teachers to encourage schools to be inclusive of children of different ethnic and religious backgrounds.

In another, they are documenting property titles for people who are now refugees in other countries.

The situation in Syria is fragile, and it’s hard to predict what will happen next. We are continuing to monitor the situation to see how we can best help Syrians rebuild their communities—and lay the foundation for a peaceful future for their country.

We send our prayers for peace and security to the people of Syria and those throughout the region.

We continue to pressure the U.S. government toward more ethical and effective problem solving—moving away from protecting U.S. interests alone and toward pursuing common interests. Meanwhile, the work of a few resourceful Syrian peacemakers reminds us that peaceful ends can be, must be, achieved through peaceful means.

In peace,
Shan Cretin