Reflections on September 11

[1] Six years ago our church adopted a social statement, “For Peace in God’s World,” intended to reflect the consensus view of how we as a Community for Peace should pursue that goal. As we reflect upon the horrible disaster of September 11, 2001, I believe it would do us all good to re-read that statement. You will recognize progress on some tasks. But as I stood the Sunday following the attack on the knoll overlooking the side of the Pentagon, with its blackened rubbled gash just feet from where I worked twenty years ago, my own feelings of intense sadness and anger perhaps suggest the enormity of the challenge we face in “countering and transforming attitudes that encourage violence” (p14). That task has now been elevated to a new level of importance as a focus of our prayers and energy.

[2] What we in the United States have regarded as a growing strength of our mostly “immigrant” society–welcoming people from all ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds into our society–was seen and exploited as a vulnerability by those whose hatred for us appears to know no bounds. “Countering… attitudes” then must be our first priority to avoid repetitions of September 11. Our leaders, in cooperation with other nations, must develop and prosecute the campaign to bring to justice those who planned and supported the September 11 massacre. Yet, we have the duty to encourage them to look beyond the immediate targets of this campaign and focus also on the second part of the Peace Statement’s task– to “transform attitudes that encourage violence.” The whole campaign must be geared to influence those countries within which preaching and training for self-sacrificing terrorism is tolerated, to make and enforce laws to prevent those activities from continuing. Because many of these countries have unstable governments, they may need to understand the consequences of not acting against this cancer, as well as the benefits to their societies if they do cooperate. Surely acceptance into the family of civilized nations, with assistance in both political and economic development, should be more attractive than living as they do, or would under sanctions.

[3] In summary, terrorism stands as a threat to the very existence of ordered community and cannot be allowed to fester. Our response, however, should reflect the very civilization that it seeks to defend: not targeting people because of their religion or the color of their skin, but made in a proportional response against those who undertake or support the acts of terrorism This campaign will be every bit as difficult for us and the other like-minded peoples as was World War II.

[4] The tragedy of September 11 awakened all civilized societies to the reality of this brand of terrorism just as Pearl Harbor awakened us to the reality of an earlier brand of evil. But we are less burdened with prejudices now than we were sixty years ago and so can react without the fears that beset our fathers. Yet there is one overriding commonality that we share– the need to pray to God for the strength and wisdom to pursue a just and lasting Peace in this campaign that began September 11.