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Blessing of the
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Opinions divided
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Saint Mary's

In Berkeley, prayers
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placeholder September 23, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 16   •   Oakland, CA
Opinions divided on Syria strike at Saint Mary's

The biggest beneficiary of a U.S. military strike against Syria would be al-Qaida, a Saint Mary's College professor warned on the 12th anniversary of 9/11.

Politics Professor Hisham Ahmed participated in a panel discussion that packed a large lecture hall on the Saint Mary's College Moraga campus to explore the Syrian conflict. Interest was heightened by President Obama's nationwide speech the evening before.

Several times Ahmed emphasized that he is a strong admirer of Obama. But he is greatly concerned about the U.S. policy as Obama articulated it.

Ahmed predicted that if the U.S. intervenes militarily in the Syrian conflict "the greatest beneficiary of an American military strike on Syria will not be Syria but the most ardent enemy, al-Qaida."

The nationwide speech "deepened the state of confusion by virtue of the many contradictions."

Ahmed grew up in a West Bank refugee camp. He taught at Birzeit University on the West Bank before coming to Saint Mary's.

There were many questions about the best course to take, with no ready consensus and plenty of wariness about possible options.

In the view of another politics professor, Mindy Thomas, drawing the line at Syria's use of chemical weapons is not satisfactory in a conflict where more than 100,000 have already died.

"We are saying that you can kill your own people any way you want, but just not with chemical weapons."

Further complicating the picture, said Thomas, is the reality that Syria's President Assad "has been a better protector of minorities," including Christians.

Evelyn Minaise, a student who spent two months in Lebanon this summer visiting family members, recounted seeing a huge number of Syrian refugees, desperately living along the streets doing grueling menial labor. She is uncertain about an American military intervention, but found her parents solidly in favor because of the brutality.

Student Aya Fawey told of a 26-year-old who has not left her house in Syria for two years after her father was shot. She said Syria crossed the line when it used chemical weapons.

With pessimism palpable among the speakers and audience, Brother Charles Hilken, a history professor, may have offered the best hope.

Pope Francis' vision in his day of prayer on Sept. 7 "is the most rational, most realistic" approach to resolving the Syrian war, in Hilken's view.

"God's world is a world where everyone feels responsible for everyone else," Hilken said of Francis' message, which called for dialogue and "a place for everyone, a prayerful disposition for peace."

 
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