Opinion: This Is A Time For PeaceBy Helena McMullin
Whatever happens next, the attack on the US will be with us forever. It will be this time’s equivalent to the shooting of JFK – we will all always remember where we were when we heard about it – and it will eventually become a movie epic like the disaster of the Titanic repeatedly has. But right now we are all worried, upset, angry and disturbed, and some of us are very, very afraid.
For a long time most of us have lived in peace. Under the banner of freedom of the individual, freedom of thought and peace through international trade many countries, including our own, have allowed national assets to be sold off on a large scale, much to the dismay of many (New Zealand’s indigenous people for one) but up to now the real consequences of that have not materialised. Under the threat of a World War III, however, this changes completely. Suddenly we realise how fragile we have become. So fragile, in fact, that a bunch of fanatics can get together and out of the blue suddenly murder and maim thousands of innocent people who did nothing but go to work that day, and demolish one of our global economy’s icons – Wall Street – by using one of its owns tools; domestic commercial airlines. In a way it is like taking our fist and smashing it in our own face against our will. It is a hideous crime and we do not accept it.
So hated are we by a group of people, too cowardly to come out and declare themselves and to tell us why. One wonders if not some soul-searching might be in place. Then again - and most importantly - we must remember that this hatred comes from a very small group of people. And we must remember that though we feel attacked, violated and frustrated we must not get carried away and seek vengeance at the cost of innocent lives. That the prime suspect claims himself to be a devoted Muslim, using religion as a tool to justify his criminal actions, does not mean that he and all other Islamic devotees are all and the same. Just as our culture has had and frequently does have the odd maniac among us committing crimes in the name of God (like recent murder suspects in our own country), we know this only means that we have some seriously crazy people in our community, not that all people believing in God are insane.
Already our society has seen misguided acts committed against Muslims who happen to live among us (together with Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, witches, agnostics etc.), with some people trying to vent their frustration over the horrible crime that has been committed. We have to keep our heads cool until we have all the facts. We have to show that we know better than the criminals who committed this crime.
We have to remember that we have committed ourselves in law to respect all other human beings and to allow ourselves and everyone else freedom of thought and movement. We believe in this so much that we give people who come from places that deny such basic rights refuge, by giving them the right to apply for asylum from torture and suppression. Seeing what has happened recently, no wonder the ferry ended up outside Australia. I don’t even need to consider that if I was living in Afghanistan, I too would try to escape and create the opportunity for my family to have a decent life. To even contemplate that these poor men, women and children could be spies on behalf of a country that spends all its time oppressing them is simply absurd.
We have two World Wars behind us, still recent enough for their survivors to have nightmares about them at night. We have parents and grandparents still alive to tell us the horror stories of what happened, show us their scars or try to hide them from us for our own sake. Since World War II ended we have focussed on rebuilding and growing our community, with such ferocity that our environment has suffered as a result, but all to make up for the time and lives lost in those two disastrous events in our history. This is the time to hold on to that peace, embrace it more than ever, if nothing else so out of respect for our parents and grandparents.
Violence only feeds violence. In the face of violence we must stand united for our peace, not lose our temper and strike back in anger. By standing up for what we believe in, we will defend our culture of peace and bring the guilty to justice. By capturing all surviving terrorists and making them stand trial at the International Court of Justice, we show that our culture not only can withstand an attack but solve the problem together.
The attack on New York is not just America’s problem. This is our problem and as such it must be solved by us together, under our international laws. Together we must show that we protect our culture of freedom and rights all the way.
This is the time to embrace our global community and show that we are more than our international trade, that we are in fact a global community working together to improve our lives and ensuring ourselves the fundamental rights of freedom and peace. And that we do not accept crime through unjustified attacks on innocents and destruction of property. Just like we have brought criminals from World War II, Rwanda and former Yugoslavia to justice, we must bring these criminals to answer for themselves to us. This is not just an attack on New York, this is an attack that could have been made against any of our large cities, in which we have family and friends. This is an attack against what we believe in and we must stand strong together in proving that we not only preach, but also do as we say.
By bringing these criminals to international justice we show how civilised people resolve conflict and don’t lower ourselves to the level of criminals by retaliating using their methods. To retaliate now would be to truly disregard all that we have built for ourselves, across nation borders, and it would fly in the face of what we are all about – peace, trust and freedom.