Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Call for nonviolent alternatives to end the conflict in Libya

Eight years ago, on March 19, the United States led the attack on Iraq. This year, on that same date, US forces, in conjunction with those of other countries, embarked on an aerial assault of another Arab country, Libya.

The American Friends Service Committee is appalled by the countless deaths, the untold suffering, the displacements of people, and the physical destruction in Libya. We pray for those who have already lost their loved ones through violence, whatever may be the source.

Our long experience in the Middle East and Africa, along with our Quaker witness for peace, compels us to speak out about the crisis in Libya. We deplore the violence and killings inflicted by Qaddafi’s government on its citizens, as we abhor the actions of any government that places their own self-preservation above the well being of their people. However, our revulsion does not justify violence, or war.

Our experience has shown the futility of challenging violence with violence. We have seen that history has proven time and again that war and violence do not bring about justice or a lasting peace. Instead, they always take a terrible toll on civilians. This is why, as a Quaker organization, we advocate for nonviolent social change.

We support the people of Libya as they struggle to protect their human rights and to transform unjust social and political systems in their country. We note that in Egypt and Tunisia, remarkable change has been achieved in a short time with minimal violence or outside intervention. Recent history shows how nonviolent approaches can prevail to overcome extraordinary oppression. Unlike military action from another country, these approaches serve the people over the long term.

In addressing the serious issues of international peace and security, we urge the use of non-military methods by all involved. In this case, the international community has not exhausted the available nonviolent alternatives to protect the people of Libya. The significant resources required by the chosen course of military intervention could be better used for intense diplomatic and political efforts to alleviate the crisis.

We believe that it is morally unacceptable to allow military tactics to lead our response to human crises. The current foreign military assault on Libya is a step in the wrong direction, one that may lead the country to further instability, human suffering, and protracted violent conflict.

We therefore ask:

  1. The Libyan government to end all violence against its own citizens and to fulfill its obligation to protect its citizens.
  2. The coalition forces, including the United States, to cease the air bombardment and military involvement in Libya, and renounce any intention to impose regime change by force.
  3. The United Nations, the African Union, and the Arab League to increase diplomatic efforts to engage all parties to the conflict in dialogue, to support an immediate ceasefire, and to find political solutions that serve the needs of the Libyan people.
  4. All parties to allow full access for humanitarian agencies to provide urgently needed assistance to internally displaced people, refugees who fled to neighboring countries, and the tens of thousands of migrants stranded in Libya. We urge that emergency assistance and protection be extended to all in need on the basis of humanitarian principles and not on the basis of political criteria or military objectives.

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