Today marks the fourth anniversary of the terrorist attacks which have shaped the early years of the 21st century. No doubt for many of us, the moments where we first learned of this tragic event are seared into our memories, the feelings of disbelief and powerlessness easily recalled. In this history of the Western World, this date has become a defining moment. We do well to pause and consider the ways in which we have been defined by it. Some of the responses which have proposed for us:
Fear: “Be alert but not alarmed,” we have been told. It is now a case of when, not if, a terrorist attack will occur on Australian soil. This sense of dis-ease is fed in order that we might trust our government’s responses.
Suspicion: If someone is different from you, particularly if they are Muslim, we have every right to be suspicious of them. While in past years we have been likely to ignore strange behaviour from someone different, we are encouraged to treat them as sinister.
Loss of freedom: The very aspects of life which were deemed to be the reason for the terrorist attacks have been slowly eroded in the name of security: we are subject to searches, identity checks, limited access to public buildings, subject to more scrutiny when we travel. One Australian has been held in custody for three years without trial, and many refugees likewise in Australia.
Greater conflict: The cost of ‘peace’ has been high: a war on Afghanistan (remember it?), a continuing war on and in Iraq, bombings in Indonesia, Spain, and in London, increased racial tension.
In four years we have been asked to accept changes to our way of life and to our values in the name of ‘freedom’. Some of the policies and practices adopted have been previously subject to scorn in other countries. Consider the behaviour of those committed to freedom towards the prisoners in Abu Graib. We have seen the enemy, and sometimes it is hard to tell the difference from ourselves.
Of course the argument might be made that these things have been necessary. I, however, pause to consider the response that Jesus called his disciples to. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink…” “Be merciful, just as your father is merciful.”
There’s a new world being formed as we speak and live. In what ways are we contributing to its shape? And how does our contribution bear the good news?
September 11, 2005