What is in the way we are living, organizing our societies, and treating each other that makes violence seem plausible to so many people? -Rabbi Michael Lerner-
As a Canadian, I am one with all those people from around the globe who are horrified by the colossal acts of violence perpetrated by terrorists on innocent Americans on September 11. As a human being, I understand the profound anger that cries out for immediate retaliation against the enemy who perpetrated such violence on thousands upon thousands of unarmed civilians. But as a student of history, I know that hatred and violence beget more of the same and the number of innocent victims increases. As I watched the unbelievable images of violence cross the television screen for the past two days and listened to the stories of indescribable suffering and loss, I wept at the evil of which we, as humans, are capable. As I listened to the stories of heroism, love of neighbour and courage, I rejoiced in the triumph of the human spirit in the midst of chaos and disaster.
But as I read of the assaults, verbal abuse, attacks, and ethnic stereotyping that innocent Canadian and American Muslims and Arabs are being subjected to, I recoiled in disbelief at the ignorance behind such manifestations of hate. Perhaps it was the latter that led me away from the televisions constant focus on the "who?" regarding the terrorist attack to the "why?" Only by reflecting on the "why" of this epic tragedy, will we know how to address the future security of the global community.
Lester B.Pearson, a former prime Minister of Canada, gave a prophetic warning in the 50's that the world was moving into "an age when different civilizations [would] have to learn to live side by side in a peaceful interchange, learning from each other, studying each others history and ideals and art and culture, mutually enriching each others lives" However, as David Crane points out in his September 12 column in the Toronto Star, "in this year of 2001, globalization is seen in many parts of the world as a threat to other civilizations or even as a plot by Western nations to impose their values and institutions on other societies."
David Crane goes on to say, "I think we are all aware of a deep-seated sense of grievance in other parts of the world, combined with [unimaginable] poverty and a sense of hopelessness that are a threat to a more peaceful world." When I read these words, I recalled those of the poor Salvadoran peasant to Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit: "You will never understand violence unless you experience the violence done to your spirit watching your own child die of hunger."
For me the huge American tragedy shows the peril of an unredeemed globalization that is breeding more and more hate in our world, and the need to pray for, and contribute to the birthing of a new kind of world order.
This will, if possible, be an even greater challenge in the aftermath of the September 11 atrocities. It will take more faith and courage to question, let alone resist a war of retaliation. It will take more wisdom to overcome fear and outrage in our national decision making. It will take more humility to own our own global sin through which we have "de-sanctified" peoples by using them as a "means to our ends."
I believe that those responsible for September 11's savage attack must be brought to justice, and that killing more innocent people is not part of that justice. But I also believe that if our present system of globalization is not "redeemed" by a system which respects the dignity and equality of all peoples of the globe, hate and violence that it so often engenders-will continue to escalate world wide.
By Sister Catherine Fairbairn, gsic (Social Justice Network)