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New Mexico bishops speak against strike in Syria

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The U.S. should “learn from the Iraq tragedy” and seek a negotiated settlement in Syria rather than pursuing military intervention, New Mexico’s bishops said in a letter sent Friday to the state’s Congressional delegation.

The bishops’ letter echoes statements by Pope Francis, who urged world leaders this week to abandon the “futile pursuit” of a military solution in Syria and pursue a negotiated settlement that guarantees rights for all Syrians.

“We call on you as members of our Congressional delegation to urge the President to seek a negotiated political settlement,” the bishops wrote. “We believe that more lives and livelihoods will be destroyed by military intervention.”

The letter coincides with President Obama’s effort to convince Congress to authorize a military strike against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad following an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus.

The letter condemns as “morally reprehensible” the use of chemical weapons in Syria and recognizes the tragedy of the civil war that has killed 100,000 and forced 4 million Syrians to flee their homes, including 2 million who have fled the country as refugees.

“We ought not to fuel violence but seek a negotiated resolution,” the bishops wrote. “We ought to learn from the Iraq tragedy that rushing to conclusions without clear evidence can have disastrous consequences.”

Signing the letter are Archbishop of Santa Fe Michael Sheehan, Diocese of Gallup Bishop James Wall, Diocese of Las Cruces Bishop Oscar Cantú and retired Las Cruces Bishop Ricardo Ramirez. Allen Sánchez, executive director of the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops, also signed.

The letter cites calls by Pope Francis and bishops of Christian communities in the Middle East urging President Obama to seek a negotiated settlement.

“They have begged the family of nations not to resort to military intervention in Syria,” the bishops wrote. “We believe a military attack will be counterproductive, could exacerbate the situation, and could have negative unforeseen consequences.”

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