Syria : Not Missiles but Trees : Alternatives to Violence
There is a need to manifest the proper response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria (by whatever faction: government or armed oppositions) that would symbolize both the need to respect one of the few nearly universally-recognized restraints in war — the 1925 Geneva Protocol — and at the same time would be a symbol of the need for reconciliation among the people in Syria currently in armed conflict.
Firing Tomahawk cruise missiles from far out at sea is not an appropriate response, neither as a symbol — a tomahawk being a weapon for killing — nor as a political message pointing to the need for reconciliation among Syrians, the need for regional cooperation, and the need to respect human rights in time of war.
There is wide agreement that limited US and French or other missile strikes will not lead to regional cooperation but rather will increase tensions. Nor would limited missile strikes lead to negotiations among Syrians to develop a more broadly-based administration to reflect better the multi-cultural dimension of Syrian society. While some of the armed opposition groups hope to be able to advance their interests in the confusion which would follow missile strikes on military targets, there is little likelihood of permanent advances, much less “regime change”.
If not missiles, what is an appropriate response, either from governments or civil society as structured by Non-governmental Organizations (NGO)?
I suggest that there be a cooperative effort led by Syrians but in cooperation with people from other countries to plant trees in as many villages and neighbourhoods of cities as possible. Tree planting would be done with appropriate and creative rituals and mythic language symbolizing reconciliation, cooperation, and a desire to live together in peace. Mythic language refers to symbols, imagery, allegory and metaphor used to convey meaning and the deeper aspects of reality, renewal, transition and new beginnings.
The tree is an oft-used symbol of the required growth of a person: roots going deep, branches and leaves reaching toward the sky. Trees have long been part of humanity’s daily life as well as an important part of its myths and symbols. In Scandinavian mythology; the Great World Tree, Yggdrasil is the tree of existence, the tree of life and knowledge. Care of the tree is entrusted to three maidens, named Urdhr (Past), Vervandi (Present), and Skuld (Future). From this tree springs forth our visible universe. On the topmost branches of this tree of life sits an eagle, who symbolizes light and whose keen eyes see all things taking place in the world. The tree is the cosmic pillar that supports heaven. Its branches are a ladder so that humans can climb, through initiations, to higher consciousness. The loss of the leaves of a tree in Winter and their renewal in Spring has served as the symbol of death and regeneration. In this situation of the use of chemical weapons, the leaves of the tree also take impurity out of the air — symbolically absorbing poison gas. Nature is coming to the rescue of the folly of men.
Thus the tree is an appropriate symbol for living in harmony with Nature and among humans. Our natural senses are designed to bring our lives into harmony, fulfilment and community with the world. This re-connecting with Nature can produce joy, regeneration and community bonding — so necessary after periods of division and conflicts.
We must not underestimate the difficulties of assembling teams of ritual tree planters, of creating cease-fires so that the ritual can be carried out with as wide a representation of local populations as possible, and on building communal accord after the rituals. However, in a world in which governments can move war ships and planes to the area, it should also be possible to organize alternatives to more violence. Within Syria, both government and oppositions are moving to safer positions and preparing in the event of missile attacks. Thus it should also be possible to plan for ceremonies of reconciliation.
As Syria is a land of old cultural roots, there are no doubt sites considered as important or sacred, power points with special energy flows. One could start with such sites and then widen the circle.
This proposal is now being sent to representatives of the Syrian government and to some opposition groups with which we have contacts. However, I believe that it is up to NGOs and spiritual centers to take the lead. Thus your cooperation is most welcome.
Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens