The Day After organized a meeting on August 13th with three well-known religious leaders and proponents of nonviolence. Sheikh Jawdat Said from Syria, Friar Ivo Markovic from Bosnia and Professor and Rabbi Marc Gopin from the United States discussed the conflict in Syria and lessons learned from other conflicts.
The three speakers agreed that the Syrian tragedy could have been avoided if the Syrian regime had put its people’s interest before its own, rather than suppressing the peaceful protests with violent means. Sheikh Said noted that by responding to violence with violence the opposition had provided a justification for an escalation of the aggression by the regime.
The three speakers each explained how religion in general – and Islam, Christianity and Judaism in particular – can play an important role in creating more of a shared space for the people in Syria today. The use of religion in the Syrian conflict as a tool of war is one of the most dangerous developments in Syria today, said Friar Ivo.
Rabbi Gopin further elaborated on this idea and pointed to examples in history when religion was at its best that was always when it was disassociated from the ruling power. Religion is always at its worst the closer it is to the ruling circles and the greater its political influence. He added that Syrians should not pay attention to what Iran and Saudi Arabia want, as they seek to use Syria as their proxy war. However, Gopin noted, Bashar al-Assad remains primarily responsible for the current situation in Syria, and he alone was in a position to change the direction and absorb the anger of the people from the outset. But regrettably he decided to move the country towards war.
Friar Ivo Markovic is well known for his peacemaking efforts and he is an advocate for the importance of transitional justice. He played a major role in the countries of the former Yugoslavia when fighting broke out between different ethnic and religious groups.
Sheikh Jawdat Said was born in the village of Bir Ajam of the Golan Heights in Syria in 1931. He is a contemporary Islamic thinker and intellectual and he is considered the father of the nonviolence movement in Syria. He is also considered to be an extension of the School of Islamic thinkers, Professor Malik bin Nabi and Muhammad Iqbal.
Rabbi Marc Gopin is the Director of the Center for Religion, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution (CRDC) at the University of George Mason in the United States. He is an expert in conflict resolution and a pioneer in the field of nonviolence.