Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior-general of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), had strong words for the US and France, who are currently weighing their options to attack Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack allegedly carried out by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
Fr. Nicolas called such actions “an abuse of power”, questioning the authority that the two countries had to inflict a punishment that would ultimately hurt more innocent victims. The Jesuit General’s remarks come on the heels of Pope Francis’ announcement of a day of prayer and fasting for the people of Syria this Saturday.
In the interview conducted by John Pontifex of the Independent Catholic News, Fr. Nicolas said that while it is not customary for him to comment on political and international conflicts, he could not keep silent in front of the situation in Syria.
“I have to confess that I cannot understand who gave the United States or France the right to act against a Country in a way that will certainly increase the suffering of the citizens of that country, who, by the way, have already suffered beyond measure,” Fr. Nicolas stated. “Violence and violent action, like what is being planned, have to always be the last resort and administered in such a way that only the guilty are affected.” The Jesuit General also stated that the Jesuits are behind the Pope “100%” in his call to the end of armed conflict in Syria.
Abuse of Power
When asked regarding the responsibility of the international community to punish those who use chemical weapons against their own people, Fr. Nicolas said that it is true, in the current circumstances, there are three components missing to justify the US and France’s course of action.
The Jesuit General stated that an attack from the United States, in itself, is an abuse of power. “The US has to stop acting and reacting like the big boy of the neighborhood of the world. This leads inevitably to abuse, harassment and bullying of the weaker members of the community,” Fr. Nicolas said.
The second problem with the current situation is that the investigation into the use of chemical weapons should be made clear to the whole world. “It is not enough that some members of the punishing Government make a statement of conviction,” he said. “They have to convince the world, so that the world can trust in them. This confidence does not happen today, and many have already started speculation about the ulterior motives that the USA may have in the projected intervention.”
Thirdly, once the use of chemical weapons is confirmed, a course of action should be taken that would only serve to punish the those who committed the crime. Fr. Nicolas said that the US and France’s current strategy will instead inflict more punishment on the Syrian population, which has suffered for over 2 years. “It is very worrying that in the name of justice we plan an attack that will increase the suffering of the victims.”
Concluding his interview, Fr. Nicolas stated that he has no prejudice against the United States or France but vehemently disagrees with their current strategy, saying that they are the brink of making “a terrible mistake.”
“That two such Countries would come together for such an outrageous measure is part of the world´s anger,” he said. “We are not afraid of the attack; we are afraid of the barbarism to which we are being lead.”