In 2016, MCC celebrated a bittersweet milestone: 25 years of work in Syria. A program that began with placing an English teacher near Damascus has grown into the single-largest crisis response in MCC history. In addition to MCC’s work in the region, our office continues to advocate for an end to the devastating war in Syria.
On September 21, the International Day of Peace, people gathered in New York City to pray for peace in Syria. The “Global Day of Action and Prayer for Syria” also included a press conference and resources for people to use in their home communities.
More than five years after the war began, the humanitarian crisis continues. The U.S. government has contributed nearly $6 billion in humanitarian funding within Syria and neighboring countries and hosted a summit on refugees in September.
But the U.S. is also involved directly in the war, providing support for Syrian opposition groups. In December a provision was slipped into the defense authorization bill, allowing the U.S. to provide shoulder-fired missiles to the Syrian opposition. The U.S. also continues its war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
President-elect Trump has said that he wants to cut off aid to Syrian opposition groups and plans to strengthen ties with Russia. Many in Congress strongly oppose both these steps, however.
Closer U.S.-Russia ties could make it easier to reach a negotiated agreement to end the war in Syria. But a key question will be the content of such an agreement, including how well it protects the rights of all Syrians.
Trump has also signaled an interest in stepping up military efforts against ISIS. Already the fight against ISIS has taken a steep toll on civilians in the region. In the long run, the grievances that contributed to ISIS’ rise will have to be addressed, or the vacuum created by ISIS’ departure could be filled by another extremist group. —Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach