Jim Wallis: 'ten lessons to be learnt from September 11'

 In a SojoMail column last fall, I wrote that September 11 could either become a teachable moment and a doorway to transformation - or an excuse for our worst instincts and habits. It all depends on whether we learn the right lessons and make the right choices. One year later, here are ten lessons we must learn if real change is ever to come. 1. Treat the threat of terrorism as very real. Don't underestimate it or politicize it. Cells of terrorists around the world are trained and ready to strike again. To prevent further terrorist violence is a worthy cause. The question is not whether, but how. I live with my wife and four-year old son on a terrorist target, only 20 blocks from the White House. I want to stop potential terrorist threats against my family and other innocents with all my being - but not in ways that risk and kill other people's four-year-olds. 2. Avoid bad theology. The American Bush theology sees a struggle between good and evil - we are good, they are evil. And everyone else is either with us or against us. If we can't see the face of evil in the events of September 11, we have been corrupted by the post-modern world of moral relativism. But we are not the good. That's bad theology. Jesus teaches us to see the beam in our own eye, and not just the mote in our adversary's eye. George Bush is a Methodist, but he sees no beams in the American eye. But there is also a bad anti-American theology that suggests that evil resides only in Washington, DC. Bin Laden is not a freedom fighter. He cares nothing for the have-nots of the world. He's only recently become interested in the Palestinians. His is a twisted ideology and pathology of hate, vengeance, and lust for power. And he would turn Islam into a religion of violence against innocents. We must act so that the world will not be remade in the image of the terrorists; and we deny the terrorists their victory when we refuse to be changed into people God has not called us to be. 3. Listen to the different perceptions of September 11 around the world. Random, senseless violence, which can take loved ones at a moment's notice, is not a new experience for most of the world's people in places like Sarajevo, San Salvador, Johannesburg, or Jerusalem. Even the inner-city youth of Washington, DC, were not as traumatized by September 11 as their suburban counterparts. Our illusions of invulnerability must be shattered - so we can join the rest of the world. 4. Let's define terrorism the right way, and allow no double standards. Terrorism is the deliberate taking of innocent lives. It applies to individuals, groups, and nations alike - all of which can and have supported and committed acts of terrorism. Those who turn airplanes into missiles to attack skyscrapers full of people, those who become suicide bombers, and those who order military strikes against apartment buildings full of civilians and children are all terrorists, not religious devotees, martyrs, or defenders of national security. 5. Attack not only the symptoms, but also the root causes of terrorism. Poverty is not the cause of terrorism, but impoverishment and hopelessness are among terrorism,s best recruiters. We must drain the swamp of injustice in which the mosquitoes of terrorism breed. Justice really is the best path to peace, and there is no security but common security. 6. The solutions to terrorism are not primarily military. Drying up the financial resources of terrorism, coordinating international intelligence, and multi-national policing are much more effective weapons against terrorism than bombing Iraq. Dealing with root causes is the best strategy of all. 7. It's time to move beyond the old debates of pacifism vs. just war, and focus on the promising common ground of conflict resolution. We must ask what are the transforming initiatives and practices that will actually prevent, reduce, contain, and, ultimately overcome the inevitable eruptions of violence in our world. 8. It is time to end the era of unilateral action by any nation, even the world's last remaining superpower - no matter how strong it seems to be. Nobody can go it alone. No victory over terrorism is possible without a whole new level of international judicial, political, and financial collaboration. Only a real world court to weigh facts and make judgments, with effective multinational law enforcement, will be able to protect us. 9. This is not a time for peace-loving, but rather for peacemaking, which is much more demanding. And peacemaking is, finally, less a position than a path - the path Jesus has clearly instructed us to take. That path cost him dearly, and no doubt will us too. But the alternatives are both impractical and frightening. 10. Finally, the fight against terrorism is a spiritual struggle, not just a political one. It causes us to ask what is really important, what our closest relationships really mean to us, and what we are really doing with our lives and the gifts God has given us. Like firefighters who make pilgrimages to Ground Zero, we are all pilgrims now. .Jim Wallis is the founding editor of the Washington-based Sojourners magazine and a leading Christian human rights campaigner Source: Sojourners 2002 (c) www.sojo.net

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