Picture by Reuters
The violence of the past few weeks makes it difficult to believe that any resolution is possible in the foreseeable future. Orlando, Bangladesh, Istanbul, Baghdad, Saudi Arabia, the on-going shootings in Chicago, to mention a few, make us wonder if dealing with violence is becoming a substantial way of life for so many people. In the United States, for example, there seems to be more concern for the right to bear arms than the right to vote. We are especially concerned about the violence against Muslims by terrorists who claim they are motivated by religion to murder and injure in the name of God. ISIL has once again revealed its true nature as it murdered and injured so many in the Holy Month of Ramadan.
Our hearts are broken over and over again as we reach out in prayer and advocacy to the families, loved ones, and friends of those who were murdered or injured. We at The Interfaith Peace Project can empathize with those who are tempted to believe that the only response to such senseless violence is righteous retaliation. We are deeply concerned about any political expediency or opportunism which seizes upon the fears of honest people. If there was ever a time for thoughtful reflection, measured response and self-reflection as a people, now is that time. We offer several reflections:
1) Since religion and the practice of such reaches across boundaries and borders of Nations and peoples, spiritual practice has the powerful potential to contribute to mutual understanding and cooperation even between warring people.
2) Rather than make enemies of those who can be our companions on the road to that justice that makes peace, we need to distinguish between the authentic practice of a given faith tradition and its misuse by terrorists and opportunists. The attacks in Bangladesh, Istanbul, Baghdad, and Saudi Arabia claimed by ISIL underscore that no reasonable person should ever think ISIL is a legitimate expression of Islam.
3) We must pursue and be honest about the root causes of “religiously motivated” violence and terrorism in all its forms. We have the responsibility to confront our own demons without justifying or excusing the violence of terrorism. Knowledge of how terrorists attract people empowers us to responsibly respond to this growing threat especially among younger people who are angry about real and perceived injustices.
4) We need to support strong governments who reflect the authentic values and virtues of their people. The powerful, greedy, and expedient cannot be allowed to control the masses of people for the preservation of their power and profit.
5) International cooperation, just trade agreements, international institutes of justice must more and more become agents for a developing sense that we are a World of interrelated, interconnected, and interdependent people.
6) The Spiritual / Religious / Cultural traditions of any particular people reflect the expressions of the entire human race as we quest for a compassionate ethic of peace based on justice.
7) Each of us, precisely as a human being, must live our lives for the sake of one another in all the affairs of our lives. To this end The Interfaith Peace Project will continue to encourage the ethic of compassion and understanding as the norm and core of all our work.
We are more than aware of the enormity of the task that lies before us. We invite you to enter into deep, respectful, honest, and creative conversations with one another as we confront the violence around us and within us. We must confront the culture of vengeance and retaliation which devalues the humanity of others. In the words and wisdom of Fr. John Dear, pacifist and peace activist, we must “disarm our hearts.”
Blessings to you as together we find peace in our hearts and offer that peace to friend and foe alike.
Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
With The Board of Directors of
The Interfaith Peace Project