Fourteen leading British charities and aid organisations have today joined in a call for the United States and its allies to show restraint in responding to the terrorist attacks in the United States. In their statement, NGOs express their horror at the attacks. But they warn against a "descent into a spiral of violence" if military retaliation causes the deaths of many more innocent people. "Thousands of innocent people have died in the United States. We must now make sure that even more innocent lives are not lost", the charities say. They urge the US and its allies to assess carefully the potential impact any proposed military action might have on "the poor, the innocent and the voiceless". It is imperative, they say, "that hatred does not become the order of the day". Their statement follows. "As a group of international development, human rights and refugee non-governmental organisations (NGOs) we are shocked and appalled by last week's terrorist attacks in the United States. Our thoughts go out to the victims, their families and the different communities from across the United States and the world who will have to rebuild their lives from the rubble of such a tragedy. While the United States and its friends across the world come to terms with the enormity of their loss, colossal efforts are now being directed to finding out who perpetrated the violence. Pressure is now building not merely for justice, but also for retaliation. The perpetrators must be brought to justice. But in seeking justice for the victims of this terrible crime, the world must respect the rights of all individuals. In this situation, only measured thought and statesmanship can avoid the descent into a spiral of violence. The experience of NGOs working across the world shows that - as in the USA - it is often innocent people who are the victims of violence. We urge the United States and its allies to assess carefully the potential impact any proposed military action might have on the poor, the innocent and the voiceless. Secondly, in a world still struggling to understand last week's appalling events, it is dangerously easy to demonise particular groups and peoples. Already there have been threats and attacks against Muslim communities and individuals, in this country and beyond. At this time, everyone with influence must do their utmost to combat extremism, to renounce inflammatory statements, protect the vulnerable and avoid any action that would create new enmities or destroy relations between communities or nations. It is imperative that hatred does not become the order of the day; that fear does not become an excuse for the violation of rights and that we all remember our common humanity. We must be compassionate in our support for the victims, determined in our search for justice and vigilant about the rights of all people. We urge everyone involved to show restraint in responding to an act of barbarism. In this respect any response must be conducted within the framework of international law. Thousands of innocent people have died in the United States. We must now make sure that even more innocent lives are not lost. Signed by: ActionAid Amnesty International UK Christian Aid CAFOD Catholic Institute of International Relations Oxfam GB Refugee Council Saferworld Save the Children UK World Development Movement Voluntary Service Overseas Children's Aid Direct Concern Tearfund
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