Arms cannot defeat terrorism: Uniya's Statement for the International Day of
Peace, 21 September 2003
With tragic irony, on 7 September in 2001 the United Nations General Assembly
passed a resolution that September 21 would be observed as an International Day
of Peace, beginning in 2002. This resolution was passed in New York four days
before the attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. September 11 has
changed our world just as it has changed our language.
The language of discourse and debate, the language of persuasion and polemic
used by governments, by the media, and by people from all walks of life, now focuses
on terrorism. Such language in turn focuses on fear, reprisal, border protection,
militarism, and weapons of mass destruction. It fuels and is fuelled by a climate
of suspicion and xenophobia.
Yet, says Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, the root of terrorism "cannot
be located by the military. Bombs and missiles cannot reach it, let alone destroy
it. The root of terrorism is misunderstanding, hatred and violence. Terror is
in the human heart. We must remove this from the heart. Only with the practice
of deep listening and compassion can the root of terror be transformed and removed.
Darkness cannot be dissipated with more darkness. Only light can dissipate darkness."
September 21, the International Day of Peace, is a time for us to pause, to
shift our focus - and our language - and strive to fulfil the United Nations'
tangible goal, that of establishing a 24-hour global cease-fire and commitment
If we can create even one day of peace, perhaps then in our lives, in our communities
and in the larger world we can create a culture of peace, one step at a time.
If we can create one day of peace by looking deeply into our own hearts, perhaps
we can transform and remove the terror that lies embedded there. If we can create
one day of peace by refraining from the discourse of fear, blame and reprisal,
perhaps we can recover the language of dialogue.
This September 21 we can find comfort and direction in the words of the encyclical
in Terris written by Pope John XXIII during the height of the Cold War and
nuclear threat. Forty years on the Vatican has decided to republish this remarkable
letter on peace because of the pervading and debilitating climate of fear in the
world at large.
John concludes his encyclical with the prayer: "May Christ inflame the
desires of all people to break through the barriers which divide them, to strengthen
the bonds of mutual love, to learn to understand one another and to pardon those
who have done them wrong. Through his power and inspiration, may all people welcome
each other to their hearts as brothers and sisters, and may the peace they long
for ever flower and ever reign among them." (paragraph 171)
May the peace all people of good will long for "flower and ever reign
among us", and may our hearts continue to go out to those whose lives have
been irreparably scarred by the events of September 11, the Bali bombing and other
acts of hate-filled destruction.
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