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Terrorism and Victory

From the October 2001 "Messenger"

With the round-the-clock coverage, commentators galore, interviews with rescue workers, families of victims, and a host of "experts," one would think that just about everything that should be said about the tragic events of September 11 has already been said. To be sure, much indeed has been said. But there has been much repetition. We all are aware that these were dastardly, horrific, inhumane acts. We all concur that the perpetrators must be apprehended and severely punished. We all sense that Americans are absolutely in united in our resolve to end such acts of terrorism.

Certainly, observing the heartbreak of the victims' friends and relatives has gripped us all with a profound sadness. We are outraged at the demonic cruelty of the terrorists. Yet, at the same time, we have justly felt intense pride that in the heroism of the rescue workers. We are resolute in the determination that, to the extent we are able, we must prevent such actions from ever taking place on our soil again.

If this means a sustained all-out war, we are ready to carry it out. If it means we must sacrifice some of the ease and convenience we are accustomed to, we are prepared to endure it. But if it means we must undertake a revolution in our national culture, are we willing to pursue it?

There are some things, if they have been said at all, haven't been said often. There are a couple of them I would like to discuss. I raise them not because I think it's wrong to be patriotic at a time like this. Of course we should be. I raise them not because I have the slightest misgiving about the necessity for all-out war against terrorism. Of course there must be. I raise them not because I believe that America is the main source of evil in the world. Of course it is not. I raise them because we are not only Americans; we are Christians. And as Christians, we have an unshakable loyalty to truth and righteousness that transcends even the deepest allegiance we have toward our country.

In the interests of truth and righteousness, I want to first consider the question of why people would undertake such acts against us. They are NOT madmen. Madmen are incapable of executing such highly sophisticated operations. They are certainly fanatical, but they are not mad. What motivates them? Why is America the target? Why is there such rampant anti-Americanism in the Middle East and across much of the globe?

President Bush spoke of the terrorist acts as "an attack on freedom." He was right. It certainly was an attack on our freedom. He also pointed out that if we are serious about our freedoms, we ought be serious about seeing those same freedoms extended to others throughout the world. And let us not forget: most people in the Middle East have the same aspirations toward freedom and self-determination that we do. Any tendency to consider them less than the human beings we are is incompatible with Christianity.

Consider the case of the Palestinians. They live as prisoners in their own homeland. Every day, they live with no hope for economic improvement; they see their lands confiscated, their orchards uprooted, their homes demolished, their young people killed in their own streets by an occupying army. And they are well-aware - to a man - that the brutal repression of their most basic human rights would not be possible but for the financial support of the United States of America.

The grievance of the Palestinians is but one example. If we were to survey much of the Arab and Islamic world, we would find many such grievances, that from their point of view, are based on hostile and destructive American acts against them. Policies and actions that seem justifiable and reasonable to us often have a far different impact on those whom they target.

Therefore, if any American campaign against terrorism is to succeed, it must not only include decisive military victories over terrorist organizations, it must seek to eliminate the breeding-grounds for terrorists. And that can only be done by addressing the conditions that bring about terrorism. We must recognize that wherever there is systemic oppression, terrorism tends to sprout.

In other words, victory over terrorism requires that American policy in the Middle East be just and fair. Our policymakers must take seriously the legitimate aspirations of Arab and Muslim peoples. Anything less would be unrighteous, as well as doomed to failure. To support anything less means we would fail to love our neighbors as ourselves and thus fail to be Christians.

Whether they are Arabs or Afghans, Persians or Pakistanis, Christians or Muslims, they are not less human than we. They love their children as much as we do. They love their homeland as much as we do. Most desire freedom as much as we cherish it. We can do no less than support genuine justice for them. []

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Dean, V. Rev. Paul O'Callaghan • 7515 East Thirteenth Street • Wichita, KS 67206 • (316) 636.4676 • (316) 636.5628 fax