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Tools against terrorism

Mark Raper SJ AM

Edited version of op-ed published on Jesuit News

5 October 2005

When we see evil we must name it. The bombing at Jimbaran and Kuta beaches in Bali is evil. It is ugly, brutal, criminal. It derives from a coldly calculating ideology, from well-resourced persons without conscience or scruple. No religious belief can justify such actions. Violence challenges religious people, including Christians who are called to be peace makers, not just peace lovers, to combat violence and to strengthen peace.

This new Bali bombing shocks us. Again we come to that place of sadness. It shows that we are in a depressing, disappointing situation of continuing violence. We feel it as an attack on Australians, timed so near the anniversary of the Bali bombs that deeply wounded, yet united Australians. We mourn the dead and feel compassion for their families. How can Australia and Australians also now channel our outrage and respond in strength?

Let us not ignore that it is first an attack on Indonesia. Apparently Indonesians attacked Indonesians. Imagine how that feels. Can we act strongly, yet in so doing not cut but rather build our solidarity with Indonesian people?

From my experiences in places such as Rwanda, Cambodia and Bosnia, I distrust an analysis that simplistically blames conflict on differences in ethnicity, religion or nationality. Conflicts are fuelled by people of malice who exploit others in order to gain or hold on to power. Yet violence unleashes a whirlwind. Violence fuels violence in an escalating cycle. How can the cycles of violence be cut without widening into war?

When your only tool is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. We need the right tools. May I suggest these tools will include renewed cooperation in policing, strengthening international law and judicial systems, and building networks of communication across ideological divisions.

Perpetrators of criminal actions should be pursued and judged by the forces of law. Police are more constrained, controlled, and circumscribed by law than are armies or the violence of war. The rule of law is a constructive alternative to destructive war.

Clearly we are dealing with international, global networks, therefore international cooperation in policing is required. I applaud the steps taken by the Australian Federal Police in cooperation with the Indonesian police.

Further, these are crimes against humanity, therefore we should seek to strengthen judicial systems, especially international courts.

How can these persons and networks be de-fanged and defeated? Jemaah Islamiah and Al-Qaeda are networks rather than organisations, and should also be countered early through new networks of communication and dialogue. There are Islamic fundamentalists who do not have a commitment to violence, and such people are most able to speak with those committed to violence. Step by step, such new channels of communication should be developed at the levels of community groups, institutions and governments. Not being a large power, Australia and Australians should be in a position to engage in diplomatic initiatives of dialogue that foster peace.

Fortunately, US President George Bush and the Coalition of the Willing are ceasing to use the term “war on terror”, possibly because they are seen as losing the Iraq war, and do not want other security initiatives to be associated with that perception of failure. War inflicts horrific violence on civilians, and widens rather than reduces the cycle of violence. War polarises. Nothing is more undemocratic than war. Military power is not the only form of power. Nor is it the most desirable, or even the easiest way to influence others. Initiatives that have the agreement of a number of nations, eg. through the United Nations, and thus legitimacy in international law, are more likely to achieve peace than initiatives imposed by a sole power.

To combat violence and to strengthen peace, Australia should work to strengthen government-to-government cooperation in policing. Australia should strengthen its commitment to international law and to the International Court. Australians should trengthen their links with other people across borders of nation, ethnicity, language and religion.

Mark Raper SJ AM, now Provincial of the Australian Jesuits, worked for twenty years with refugees, serving as International Director of Jesuit Refugee Service from 1990 to 2000. In this role he had frequent first hand experience of conflict and its results in countries such as Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Angola, Sri Lanka, El Salvador.


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