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Thay with kids

Dear President Obama and Congressmen and women,

Last week in a retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh, a young woman asked him what he would say to President Obama about Syria if he were his spiritual adviser. Thay said that the president is not able to act alone, that he has his own sangha, his community. We sometimes think that he has the power to do what he wants to do. On this day of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, we must remember that there are many other ways to deal with problems than war. We need communities of loving speech, deep listening, love and compassion to deal with the fear, anger, violence and injustice in ourselves and in the world. In order to make peace, you have to be very powerful. Powerful with the power of love and compassion, not with bombs.

We are in a moment now, a pause between a terrible unleashing of violence against the people of Syria and possible US bombing of that suffering country. There was a similar pause after 9/11 before the war in Afghanistan, another before the attack on Iraq. In the latter moment, 8 million people around the world demonstrated against US intervention in Iraq. George Bush bombed anyway, causing a decade of great loss of life, culture, economic stability and suffering for the Middle East and for our people and soldiers also.

In this interval, President Obama, please listen to the people of the world who are telling you not to bomb a people already suffering so much, especially since attacking them will not force the outcome you want in this horrible war. There have to be more effective means of stopping the use of chemical weapons (such as really ending their use by the US) and standing up against dictators than using their own methods of war.

Jeannette Rankin had the courage to vote against both World War I and World War II in Congress and to speak out against the war in Vietnam. Who, looking back on the wars of the 20th and 21st centuries, would not want us to search for more effective methods of dealing with violence than war. War does not bring peace. Only peace brings peace. Peace full of compassion, love, understanding and wisdom. Once begun, war can no more be “won” than a tornado, a tsunami or an earthquake. The suffering of every war affects many generations and now people all over the world. We are one world

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