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According to the official website of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), presiding bishop Mark S. Hanson is a new voice among many who are urging President Obama to use diplomacy over force in Syria. He’s calling for all people to join in prayer tomorrow, September 7, for all those “affected by the fighting in Syria” and “all who are working for peace: international leaders, politicians, religious leaders and ordinary citizens.”

The civil war in Syria has been raging for almost two years now, but recently claims of chemical weapons use have been amped on both sides. Use of chemical weapons was long ago designated by President Obama as a ‘red line’ for US intervention. At the end of August, after the release of gruesome videos showing the aftermath of alleged chemical weapons attacks – which the Syrian government says were staged – Obama announced that the US intended to launch a military strike.

The presiding bishop of the ELCA can be counted among the dissidents of the plan, arguing for strengthening diplomatic efforts internationally as a means of resolving the civil war. He wrote to the president on September 3rd, saying: “I agree with your clear renunciation of any use of chemical weapons. … I am nevertheless convinced that any U.S. military intervention within Syria will potentially release even greater suffering on a wider scale.”

Hanson says that the ECLA, with over 4 million members, is already involved in aiding Syrians displaced from their homes – both within Syria and in its neighboring countries. They are assisting operation of the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan, as well as helping provide rent, medical services, and supplies from the Lutheran Disaster Response funds.

In a letter to Rev. Munib A. Younan, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan, and the archbishop Jean Kawak, Hanson noted that, “the priority of policymakers must be for the wellbeing of the Syrian people,” and he shared that he will be calling on ECLA members to express their disapproval of the intended military strike to their representatives in the US government.

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