America is a culture of opinions. A proud tradition of democracy and suffrage has precipitated a society in which people take it upon themselves to be informed and critical. Although some may be persuaded by the wit of a politician or the bias of a media outlet, many of us take it upon ourselves to be informed and critical toward the realities of our world. The conflict in Syria is one of the most polarizing subjects in today’s international realm. Their civil war has been long and atrocious. Scattered factions of rebels have risen up against the authoritarian Al-Assad regime, thrusting everyday citizens into the horrors of war. Since the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons on civilians, the United States and its citizens have become increasingly concerned with how to handle the ethical dilemmas that come with humanitarian intervention.
Some agree that the crossing of President Obama’s “redline” is enough to release a deluge of American military might. Others take an isolationist approach, fearing a conflict that could stretch on for years. Wherever it is you stand on the Syrian situation, it is an unquestionable fact that human rights violations plague the war-torn nation. Last week at DePauw University, there was a discussion panel for professors from a multitude of departments that came together to discuss the situation at hand. Among those to speak was Danny Salim, co-founder of the grassroots organization Syrian Youth for Peace. Mr. Salim addressed the room from halfway around the world, streaming live over the Internet from the Middle East. His message to those in the room was one of positivity and encouragement.
Syrian Youth for Peace is devoted to providing a medium in which civil culture can grow and provide productive dialogue between both the Syrian people and those not directly affected by the conflict. The organization’s website statement says it best, “Recognizing the power of our youth and the role they will have in influencing Syria’s future is of utmost importance. Securing Syria’s future requires the empowerment of our youth to be facilitators of peace in their communities and active agents for reconciliation.”
This causes us to question the fundamental nature of a United States intervention. It is not only our nation as a whole that should be apologetic toward increasing quality of life, but rather it falls upon the shoulders of every moral individual to increase awareness of and support those that are trying to improve conditions of a struggling people. Championing organizations like these should not be a political choice, but rather a moral obligation to better the lives of those in a country with nowhere near the equality or freedom that we sometimes take for granted. Dialogue and openness between communities is the only legitimate path towards ending violence in Syria. Without communication and genuine grass roots mobilization, it is impossible to nurture peaceful solutions to the issues at hand.
The path most traveled, an overbearing, top-down approach to building stability, simply alienates the everyday citizens of Syria and does not lend itself to peace. Instead of politicians, who consider how their actions will affect the vote, institutes like the Syrian Youth for Peace should be thrust into the spotlight, enabling those best poised to make change in Syria. Tapping into the magnificent source of human capital contained in the civil sector is a viable approach to building a lasting nation with emphasis on the rights of all people.