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John Roughan: 9/11 Changed our World!

9/11 Changed Our World!

By John Roughan
16 September 2004

On Saturday last (9 September) much of the world remembered with sorrow what happened three years ago in New York City. Al-Qaeda members, mostly from Saudi Arabia, hijacked two large airplanes filled with passengers and crashed them into the Twin Towers, the city's two tallest buildings.

These plane-hijackers not only completely destroyed the two tallest buildings but killed almost 3,000 innocent women, men and children. This single act of terrorism--the purposeful killing of people for political and/or religious purposes--, now dominates people's understanding of life in today's modern world. We in the Solomons have not been spared either.

That one terrorist attack has changed the world forever. The United States because of the New York City and Washington terrorist attacks reacted almost immediately. First of all, it invaded the al-Qaeda base, the organization in Afghanistan, that had planned the Twin Towers attack. Soon afterwards the States invaded Iraq as well. These two wars were linked to the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation and to this day both of these wars continue.

But Solomons, too, has become part of the global response to terrorism. It didn't matter that we were thousands of miles away, really on the other side of the globe, our small country experienced an invasion of foreign troops as well. Fortunately, our national leaders and backed by most of our people asked for foreign troops to come in, to help restore law and order, and to bring peace and tranquillity back to our small nation. Since 24 July 2003 these troops--Australian mostly but others from New Zealand, Vanuatu, PNG, Samoa, etc-- are still with us making a difference to our lives.

Fortunately, our nation is now far ahead of both Afghanistan and Iraq when it comes to peace and order. While both these nations suffer serious war events even as you read these lines--hundreds killed, thousands wounded and ordinary daily life is both uncertain and deadly--we have experienced law and order. Not a single foreign soldier, not one civilian died, and in fact not a person has been wounded or hurt. Yet, in spite of being way in front of these other two countries, peace and order within the nation remain fragile.

We are learning slowly that peace is more than about collecting guns, locking up serious law breakers and clearing out youthful trouble makers. Peace is a conviction that the rule of law applies equally to the highest as to the lowest in society. No exceptions! Peace is an assurance that going to the garden, travelling to work or staying at home is safe and secure. Peace is a commitment to the future . . . that my children and my children's children will have a good chance at a happy, healthy and productive life, and it will continue to grow this way for years to come.

But is this the situation in Solomon Islands now? Our youth are a case in point. How do they see the future? The one group that suffered the most during our Social Unrest years has been our youth. Youth are, for the most part, optimistic. They look to a rosy future, that tomorrow will be better than today. Yet, many of them think they don't have a future. Jobs are few and far between. Quite a few of them are deeply into higher education--distance courses, USP classes, SICHE studies--but when they dream, their dreams seem to be turning to dust. Of course they too are thrilled that the guns are now fewer and fewer but that fact hasn't brought many jobs back to them.

Our leaders--political, social, religious and business--now realise that shattering the gun culture, arresting serious criminals and advancing in peace and order are the necessary conditions for peace to flourish. On their own, however, they don't bring back the country's economic health. More is needed.

The 9/11 event has been the world's defining moment and as unlikely as it sounds, our own history as well. Unlike Afghanistan and Iraq our intervention has been a peaceful one, in fact, creative. However, unless all of us--leaders and followers--are of one mind and work at keeping our fragile peace, the nation could easily slide in chaos as we did in the past.

*** ENDS ***

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