Over the next two weeks our minds will be turned again to those extraordinary events which unfolded before our disbelieving eyes more than half way around the world on September 11 last year. There will barely be a stone left unturned in the examination of the lives of individuals and the New York community which were directly affected by the tragic events. We will be invited to remember the disaster, in order that we might not see it repeated. One wonders whether we will be asked what lessons we have learned from it all.
In the interceding 12 months we have seen a concerted campaign “against terror”, with Afghanistan bearing the brunt, resulting in the fall of the Taliban regime which governed the country. International focus is now firmly on Iraq and Saddam Hussain, with American intent to remove him and install a government in Iraq more sympathetic with American interests. The US government, supported by Australia and others, have acted to protect their own interests.
In Australia over that same time span we have seen a direct focus on refugees and asylum seekers, with the Australian government turning its legal and administrative might against those who have evacuated countries in the region, many as a result of the Taliban regime we have supported action against, and then escaping from the war. We have used our power to protect our own interests, rather than risk the compassionate course.
At the recent Greenbelt Festival in Britain, a festival of music, arts, faith, and politics that has attracted people of all ages in Britain for nearly 30 years, a panel with Rowan Williams (recently appointed Archbishop of Canterbury), British Jewish and Muslim leaders were reflecting on the meaning of September 11 when Williams offered this observation: "When all you have is hammers, everything looks like a nail."
There is no doubt that the US in particular, and the West in general, has the best hammers in the world. But all we seem to be doing at the moment is looking for nails to pound. If it is not Al-Qaeda or Iraq, it is refugees and asylum seekers. We employ power against the powerless... without giving due consideration to the ultimate consequences, and without reflecting on what prompted the original attacks last year. Sadly much of the christian church seems either in agreement or in silence. Those who risk speaking out find the hammer of patriotism employed against them.
The way of Jesus seems to be in direct opposition to this unfolding scheme of events. Who is demonstrating grace? Who shows compassion? How is the path of peace pursued when it is built over the dead, starving or sick bodies of innocent civilians?
No-one seems willing to pause and ask why we found ourselves in this predicament in the first place. Until we do, we continue to fertilise the soil of war and terrorism, and poison the pathways of peace.
September 1, 2002