The Challenge of Terror: A Traveling Essay


| October 26, 2001


The Challenge of Terror: A Traveling Essay

Writing for the World Council of Churches, John Paul Lederach, a Mennonite mediator and proponent of nonviolent change, examines the roots of terror, identifies the challenges the United States faces, and outlines the nonviolent response that he believes the nation and world should take.

At the base of Lederach's argument for a nonviolent response is an examination of the roots of anger. He proposes that the generational and identity-based anger behind the 9/11 tragedy grows over time 'through a combination of historical events, a deep sense of threat to identity, and direct experiences of sustained exclusion.' The challenge of our current situation, Lederach explains, is that 'our response to the immediate events have everything to do with whether we reinforce and provide the soil, seeds, and nutrients for future cycles of revenge and violence.'

In order to avoid sowing the seeds for future recruitment and participation in organizations that use 'justified' violence as a means to the end, Lederach argues that we need to step outside of the cycle of violence and react in a way that will remove the motivations and means by which violent organizations recruit. In other words, he says, 'We will not win this struggle for justice, peace and human dignity with the traditional weapons of war.'

The answer, he argues, is in working to resolve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and investing in development, education, and the social agendas in countries surrounding Afghanistan. 'Let us not fulfill their prophecy by providing them with martyrs and justifications,' Lederach writes, 'They have changed the game. They entered our lives, our homes, and turned our own tools into our demise. We need to change the game again.'
--Lindsey Dickinson
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