CHICAGO (March 6, 2012)—“I wish to express my profound disappointment and concern regarding the ongoing crisis in Syria. Peaceful demonstrations for reform began a year ago. Today the country is in the throes of a brutal conflict, leaving thousands of innocent civilians killed. There is no justification for these and other crimes against humanity.
The latest fighting is very troubling and needs immediate and urgent peaceful resolution. I appeal to all parties, including religious leaders, to use their moral courage, as demonstrated during previous difficult periods, to assist the beloved people of Syria to end these disastrous conditions.
We cannot tolerate any more suffering and killing. I urge the international community to redouble its efforts and continue to work with all parties in Syria to end this crisis peacefully. There are divisions within Syria and also within the international community and this is not helping. All parties concerned about the future of Syria must know that a military solution should not be an option because it will worsen the situation.
History has shown us that military solutions will only deepen the misery of the people and can be catastrophic for the nation. In the tradition of Gandhi and Dr. King, I urge all parties to enter into a cease fire and commence peaceful negotiations to resolve the fundamental conflict confronting the future of Syria.
I have traveled to Syria on many occasions and met with then president Assad in 1983 to secure the release of captured US polite Lt. Robert Goodman. We have been to the Middle East in subsequent years, meeting with President Assad and other leaders. We stand willing to convene a delegation of religious leaders to travel to Syria to bring medical and humanitarian aid to the country, and to meet with leaders to advance peacefully negotiated resolutions to the conflict.
I appeal to President Assad allow full access to the UN, Red Cross and other international relief organizations seeking to bring humanitarian relief to areas in need. All parties must also allow the evacuation of the wounded.
To all parties, I urge a commitment to peace, to choose peaceful negotiation over violent action. You must not fear to negotiate, to talk over your differences, or try to resolve them short of armed conflict. A willingness to negotiate requires true mental and spiritual strength; it requires real confidence, and it holds out the best chance to achieve the desired change.
To all Syrians, you have come through a difficult period, but your nation’s best days are ahead. I am convinced that you will turn conflicts into opportunities, and when you do so, your nation will be the shining light on the hill. The people of the region and the world continue to pray for you. Expectations are high because nothing is too hard for Syrians.’