Summary: A response to 11th September

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

Live in agreement with one another. Do not be proud, but be ready to mix with humble people. Do not keep thinking how wise you are. Never pay back evil for evil. Let your aims be such as all count honourable. If possible, so far as it lies with you, live at peace with all.

My dear friends, do not seek revenge, but leave a place for divine retribution; for there is a text that reads, `Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay.’ But there is another text: `If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; by doing this you will heap live coals on his head.’ Do not let evil conquer you, but use good to conquer evil.

This week, and for a long time to come is the time for Christians throughout the world to weep with those who weep in the aftermath of this great tragedy. As leaders throughout the world have stated since Tuesday, this was an attack on the world, not just on America. How fitting it is to hear Paul’s words instructing us to do what we all are doing anyway. Paul was writing to a people who were being persecuted, loosing homes, many were being killed and it would not be long before some of his readers would be burnt alive. And what does he tell them to do, be one with those who are hurting, cry with them, love with them, comfort them and share their suffering. That has to be the initial response for everyone who has seen what happened this week.

Yet, Paul went further than this and so must we in the days and weeks to come. We have already seen the response of some to this tragedy as Moslems have been attacked in America. The following article appeared on the New York Times website on the 12th September:

“The response to this unimaginable 21st century Pearl Harbour should be as simple as it is swift – kill the bastards.” It goes on to say, “We should give the Taliban, which protects this monster, 24 hours to clear the city of Kabul of innocent civilians and then start the process of urban renewal with high-altitude bombing.”

Admittedly, this was written in the height of the events of the day before, but sadly, it is the feeling of many in America and other countries that this should be done. Does this fit in with Paul’s remarks about those who were terrorising Jewish Christians? “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Do not take revenge, but leave room for God’s wrath.” Those were Paul’s words to those in this situation, and it is up to us as Christians to speak these words to people throughout the world.

We have been hearing from the news how the authorities are reasonably sure at present who was behind this attack, but reasonably is not enough in this situation. It is our duty to seek justice not revenge, and the line between the two can often be fine. For example, what is happening in Afghanistan at the moment is revenge. One result of these terrorist attacks has been that aid agencies have been instructed to pull out of the country. Because of this, there are many thousands facing starvation. To allow this to continue is revenge, not justice. It is adding many more innocent deaths to those that have already occurred.

Our leaders have stated that this despicable act was a declaration of war, and that we are now all in a war against terrorists. We need to be very careful with this; people do not become terrorists because they think it is a nice thing to do. They do this because they can see no other way out of the situation they or their country is in. We saw this many years ago in El Salvador, that country had its terrorists, attacking the government whenever it could. America was one of those countries who fought these terrorists. It was only following Oscar Romeo’s death in the country that we began to see why there were terrorists. To see that the government in place there was vicious, and was murdering many of its own citizens. The way to fight terrorism in that situation was not to kill the terrorists, but was to take away the need for them to become terrorists.

Maybe that is approaching something of what Paul says with his words: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.”

If, because of this tragedy, we decide to go and kill or bring to ‘justice’ all of the terrorists, we are not going to win this war. All our actions will do is ensure that more people become terrorists. We would be much more successful in this war, if we turned our efforts and attention, at least first of all, to removing the need for terrorism. In this particular case, we need to do more to bring Arabs and Israeli’s together to find a permanent and just settlement for the country of Palestine.

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