The Challenge of Terror: A Traveling Essay

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

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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