Answer to Terrorism Must be Peace

20 September 2004

In a time of violence Australia must lead the way for peace. The Uniting Church is concerned that in response to terrorism, defence and security are becoming synonymous with the idea that violence is acceptable.

The President of the Uniting Church, Rev. Dr Dean Drayton, said that the language used by our leaders, of 'hunting them down', of 'long and bloody battles', is the language of a nation which has

lost its way.

"What the Church seeks from the leaders of our nation is a vision which takes us beyond fear and towards hope – the hope that peace is possible," Rev. Drayton said.

"As Christians, we believe in God who is on the side of all humankind. We must take seriously Jesus' command to 'love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you'.

"This is why the Church does not support aggression, retaliation, or people using one violent act to justify other violent acts. Complex issues require considered responses, even when they manifest themselves in dramatic and threatening forms.

"Extending love and prayers to those who treat us badly isn't always easy. It can be difficult enough to respond with love when our family or friends upset us, let alone when we see extreme injustices or cruelty inflicted on others. The desire to prevent perpetrators of violence from repeating their crimes can make violence appear as the appropriate and necessary response. But violence will never bring an end to violence. Only peacemaking will end violence.

"Peacemaking is hard work. It takes patience and a great deal of courage, but the alternatives currently being offered will only promise further despair, hatred, fear and death," Rev. Drayton said.

Rev. Elenie Poulos, National Director of UnitingJustice, said that Australia must find ways to break the cycle of violence rather than give in to it.

"An act of terrorism is not only a criminal act but an attack on humanity. Terrorists must be brought to justice, but we should never gloat at their death. It has been shocking to hear our nation's leaders express delight at someone being shot dead, regardless of who they are, and shocking to hear their support for the death penalty in other countries.

"The methods we use to end terrorism and the society we create in the process will be the legacy we leave to our children. We cannot afford to abandon the hard won systems and institutions of international law and diplomacy.

"Whenever we commit violence in response to terrorist acts, the terrorists win. In setting aside justice and proclaiming the way of peace as too hard we give in to fear and condemn our world to a violent future.

"We must catch the perpetrators of terrorism and bring them to trial for their crimes against humanity. We must certainly work to disempower terrorist groups throughout the world. This work includes building respect and understanding between all peoples and encouraging respect for human rights world-wide. It includes the provision of good and appropriate development aid, focussing especially on education in the communities in which terrorists find fertile ground.

"This election, if our national leaders are serious about ending terrorism, they should stop talking of war and pre-emptive strikes and instead commit to defending and securing Australia's future by prioritising our support for local peace-building programs throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

"The Uniting Church in Australia is just one institution with experience in such programs. It is the only long-term solution to terrorism and it is the only sure way to peace," Rev. Poulos said.