Syria peace rally

Full text of Nick Megoran's speech to peace rally

We gather tonight to urge our leaders not to go to war in Syria.‌

In the Christian scriptures, the night that Jesus of Nazareth was arrested his follower Peter took out a sword to defend him. Jesus rebuked him saying, ‘Put up your sword! Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.’ We say to David Cameron tonight: put away your sword!

We have seen the wisdom of that warning so many times in our lifetime. 

We saw it in Afghanistan, where we helped create Al Qaeda in the 1980s to fight the Soviet Union, but they turned on us with deadly consequences.  

We saw it in Iraq, where the 2003 invasion created a power vacuum that allowed Al Qaeda and then Islamic State to develop, brutalise their own societies, and spread across continents.

We saw it in Libya in 2011, where the NATO invasion replaced a bad government with no real government – allowing Islamic State to establish itself there and destabilise the whole region.

And we see it again with Syria now. All right-thinking people want to see the back of Islamic State. But we are told, ‘We must bomb, because we must do something.’ That will satisfy an (understandable) lust for vengeance. But ‘Bombing because we must do something’ is not a good military plan.

‘Bombing because we must do something’ is not a solution to bad governments and bad theologies.

‘Bombing because we must do something’ will not stop the radicalisation of marginalised and excluded Muslim youth in our own societies.

‘Bombing because we must do something’ isn’t a road-map for prosperity for a society broken by war.

‘Bombing because we must do something’ won’t change the insurmountable conundrum that elements within our so-called allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia have tacitly backed Islamic State, whilst our apparent enemies Russia and the Assad regime are the only ones with a plan to replace IS.

‘Bombing because we must do something’ is not a plan for peace in a complex civil war.

We oppose this ill-considered, foolhardy, drive for vengeance. We say to the government: put up your sword!

One of the great moments of our city’s history was when we invited Rev Martin Luther King to receive an honorary degree at Newcastle University, in 1967. King railed against what he called “the all too prevalent [political] method of physical violence and corroding hatred.” He said, “The danger of this method is its futility. Violence solves no social problems; it merely creates new and more complicated ones. Through the vistas of time a voice still cries to every potential Peter, ‘Put up your sword!’ The shores of history are white with the bleached bones of nations and communities that failed to follow [Christ’s] command…”

King went on to say that the other alternative is nonviolent love: the determination to create a global ‘beloved community’ of mutual benefit.

Our message to our MPs gathering on the eve of this crucial vote is: ‘put up your sword!’ Work instead for a world without war.