Like many, I was upset about the horrific terrorist attacks on London on July 7th. I spent a few days in London just this past Christmas. I know my way around the Tube. It gave me flashbacks of my days working at Ground Zero right after the September 11th attacks, and the thousands of grieving people I met in the months afterwards as a Red Cross coordinator of chaplains at the New York Family Assistance Center.
However, I am equally upset by the ongoing U.S. terrorist attacks on Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and elsewhere. My heart breaks with every report of the hundreds of nameless people who die from our bombs, our weapons, our soldiers.
For me, then the question, “How to Stop Terrorism?” is easy. We stop terrorism first of all by stopping our own terrorism! We cannot fight terrorism by becoming terrorists. We cannot end terrorism by using the methods of terrorism to bomb and kill Iraqis, to occupy Iraq, to support the terrorist occupation of the Palestinians, and to hold the world hostage with our nuclear weapons. We must bring the troops home from Iraq, fund nonviolent democratic peacemakers in Iraq, send food and medicine to Iraq, support United Nations’ nonviolent peacemaking solutions, end world hunger immediately, cut all U.S. military aid everywhere, dismantle every one of our nuclear weapons, fund jobs, education and healthcare at home and abroad, clean up the environment and teach nonviolence to everyone around the world, beginning at home in every U.S. classroom.
As I watch the TV news reporters and commentators, I am amazed at their lack of understanding. Half the world considers the United States the leading terrorist in the world, by our public spokespeople remain clueless about what’s really going on. We are seen as terrorists by many around the world because we bombed and killed 100,000 people in Iraq in 2003, and because we have over 20,000 weapons of mass destruction, (many of them in my neighborhood in New Mexico), which we are willing to use on any nation that does not support “U.S. interests.” Our wars and bombing raids and hostility toward the world’s poor are turning the world against us. We are breeding thousands of new terrorists, desperate poor people who have nothing, whose backs are up against the wall, and who have learned from our total violence to adopt the lunacy of violence, even suicidal violence, to strike back, blow up trains and buses, and spend their lives spreading fear.
Violence in response to violence can only lead to further violence. Jesus taught us that as the soldiers were dragging him away to his death when he said, “Those who live by the sword, will die by the sword.” Gandhi taught us that when he said, “An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind.”
Violence cannot stop violence. We have to break the cycle of violence, renounce violence, start practicing creative active nonviolence on a level that the world has never seen, and reach out and embrace the world’s poor by meeting their every need. Then, we will win over the world, and no one will ever want to hurt a Westerner again. On that new day, we will sow the seeds of love and peace and discover what a world without terrorism, war, poverty, and fear is like.
I remember with sadness meeting thousands of Iraqis in 1999 when I led a group of Nobel Peace Prize winners to Baghdad. We asked everyone the simple question, “What do you want us to do?” Everyone we met, from the Papal Nuncio to the Muslim Iman to the non-governmental organization leaders (including the late, great Margaret Hassan) to hundreds of high school children to the hundreds of mothers holding their dying children, said: “Don’t kill us!” That sounds so obvious, but they said it with tears. If you want to help us, don’t kill us! If you want us to live in peace, don’t kill us! If you want us to be friends with you, don’t kill us! If you want Iraq to create a new democracy, don’t kill us! Send us food and medicine instead, and fund nonviolent, democratic movements for peace. Then, we will live in peace with you.
I reject violence and espouse only nonviolence, but I know that most Americans support, even relish violence, anything for “God and country,” they say. If people really believe in violence and justified warfare, then why should they be upset when individuals, or hundreds, or thousands, or maybe someday millions of people turn against the United States, England, or other first world nations in acts of terrorism? What do they expect when we have shown only hostility to the world’s poor, when we have practiced genocide against people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Darfur, Haiti, and elsewhere? Why are people who espouse violence–including most Americans, most TV commentators, most government officials, even most church people–so upset about these terrorist attacks, when they themselves support terrorism upon sisters and brothers elsewhere on the planet?
I do not understand our love of violence. If you want other people to be nonviolent, you first have to be nonviolent. If you want to remove the speck from someone else’s eye, you have to remove the two by four from your own head. If you want other nations to hold you in high regard, you first have to hold other nations in high regard, and treat every human being on the planet as a sister and brother. As someone once said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That is the answer to the nightmare of terrorism.
On August 6th, thousands of us across the country will remember that the United States vaporized 140,000 innocent, ordinary people sixty years ago in Hiroshima, Japan, in the ultimate terrorist attack. That morning, hundreds of us will converge on Los Alamos, New Mexico, the birthplace of the bomb, and citing the book of Jonah, we will put on sackcloth and ashes, repent for the sin of war and nuclear weapons, and beg the God of peace for the disarmament of the world. That afternoon, I will fly to Las Vegas, to join over five hundred people of faith in a three day interfaith peace conference, where I will speak and then we will drive out to the Nevada Test Site, where hundreds of us will commit civil disobedience by walking onto the Test Site and getting arrested in a peaceful demand that they close this U.S. nuclear terrorist training camp. I hope everyone everywhere will stand up in protest against nuclear terrorism on August 6th.
How do we stop terrorism? Renounce every trace of violence in your heart and your life. Adopt the wisdom and practice of active nonviolence, as Gandhi and Dr. King taught. Beg the God of peace for the gift of peace. Join your local peace and justice group. Stand up publicly for an end to war. Let your life be disrupted, and take a new, nonviolent risk for disarmament. Create new cells of active nonviolence. Embrace the religious roots of nonviolence. Study and teach the wisdom of nonviolence. Resist your local military and government violence. Stop business as usual, government as usual, media as usual, war as usual and demand peace, justice, and disarmament for the whole world, now. Announce the vision of a new nonviolent world, a disarmed world, a world without war, poverty, injustice or nuclear weapons. Explain how such a world is possible if we give our lives for it, demand it, insist on it, work for it, and begin to live it.