Story by Larissa Wurm
This week proves to be a tough and important week for Congress — members are set to vote on ilitary intervention in Syria. A topic weighing heavily on the minds of elected officials and their constituents, people are making sure their voice is heard whether it’s via social media, phone calls to representatives or protests.
Wednesday evening in downtown Des Moines, citizens voiced their opinions in a candlelight vigil in protest of military action in Syria, held by The Des Moines Area Ecumenical Committee for Peace, the American Friends Service Committee, the Catholic Peace Ministry, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and Veterans for Peace.
Roughly 100 people gathered for the vigil, with signs reading, “Vote no to war,” and, “The world still says no to war.”
The protest included personal testimonies of why representatives in Washington, D.C., should oppose military action, followed by a moment of silence and singing “Down by the Riverside.” Afterward, supporters could line up to sign a petition.
Kathleen McQuillen, the program coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee, said the group wanted the president to show leadership and diplomacy during this time.
“He should be working with the international community,” McQuillen said. “The U.N., the Arab League, the international criminal courts.”
“I’m really happy with the turnout of the event,” McQuillen said. “I think it says a lot that this many people showed up on a short notice.”
“We want to send a message,” McQuillen said. “Lots of countries have a stake in that area. Don’t take a step toward war and start moving towards peace. I want (President Obama) to work for peace.”
Supporters were also encouraged to call their representatives to oppose intervention.
While some students keep up to date with current events, most students aren’t aware of how big the current conflict is and all of its complexities.
Randy Kane, a junior public relations major and president of Hillel, said there are a lot of students on campus who don’t know much about the conflict.
“There are students at Drake that don’t know much at all, and for me, that’s surprising,” Kane said. “For a conflict that’s been going on for two years, there’s a lot of people who didn’t know about it until this week.”
“It’s important for students to know what’s going on as a global citizen,” Kane said. “We need to be aware when other countries are using chemical weapons on their own citizens. It’s a big issue.”
Mahmoud Hamad, a political science and international relations professor at Drake, believes that before the most recent attacks in Syria, student awareness was moderate to minimal on the conflict.
“Just try to, once a day, look into a non-U.S. news source, like BBC,” Hamad said. “Students have everything at their fingertips. They just have to use it.”
Hamad said that with Congress voting this week, he thinks the authorization they give the President for intervention will be limited.
“The public and elected officials have no appetite for another conflict,” Hamad said. “The wounds from Iraq and Afghanistan are still open. There is no desire to get involved as deeply as is needed.”