The crises in Syria and Egypt need “new intervention” – 28 August 2013

Statement from Archbishop Desmond Tutu on 28 August 2013

The violent crises in Syria (and Egypt) are crying out to people across the world: “Please help us!” But despite all our technological and scientific advances, and all our collective cleverness, humans have yet to evolve the means to settle such crises without resorting to violence.

The pictures on our television screens are a flashback to the days preceding the 2003 invasion of Iraq. UN chemical weapons inspectors are on the ground in Syria, but need more time to finish their work. The United States and its allies are being reminded that international law requires UN Security Council approval for a militarystrike in response to Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

The crises in Syria and Egypt require human intervention, not military intervention.

Those who selfishly wield economic, ideological and religious power cannot continue to subvert the interests of the majority of ordinary and well-intentioned members of our human family.

We need to talk, to avoid further bloodshed, not to fight. We need to speak about uncomfortable things, such as the relationships between so-called Western countries and the Islamic world, and between Israel and Palestine. This is an infectious sore that has been allowed to fester for too long. We need to talk about why some people resort to terrorism. We need to develop our understanding of each other rather than our ability to hurt one another.

Only if we talk will we learn to trust one another sufficiently to be able to develop appropriate collective responses to the crises that afflict us. Only if we trust each other can we resolve our differences around a table without resorting to violence. It is to humanity’s great discredit that nearly 70 years after founding the United Nations we appear no closer to being able to resolve our differences peacefully.

Invading Syria may lead to the capture or killing of President Bashar al-Assad. It may lay the foundations – eventually – for a better life for the Syrian people. But it may, also, precipitate a general escalation of tensions and violence in the Middle East. And it will surely not contribute to the sustainable improvement of relations – or security – on earth. It is not worth the risk.


This statement was issued for the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation by Oryx Media.