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Ending Terrorism Means Promoting Justice

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The way out of this cycle of terrorism is to focus on justice rather than retribution, law rather than war, development rather than destruction.

Justice calls us to prosecute the Sept. 11 murderers. But justice also calls us to consider the roots of terrorism, including its acts and its capacity to recruit.
Law calls us to protect the innocent and to apprehend rather than destroy. Development calls us to help the millions of people who face starvation, disease, violence and early death.
 
Many agree that unilateral military actions will not ensure American safety. A long-term response to terrorism requires prosecuting international criminals, while addressing the ways injustice fuels terrorism.
 
Those who oppose war must propose alternative paths. Here are seven principles and practices that explain the roots of terrorism, help make communities safer and promote justice:
 
1. Consider the root of the problem, not just the symptoms.
Jonathan Moore, U.S. refugee coordinator under former Presidents Reagan and Bush, wrote that “the increasing gap between rich and poor is both morally and politically dangerous, and requires a new appreciation that our national interest is increasingly defined in terms of the lives of others.”
In a speech to the World Bank, President Bush said, “A world where some live in comfort and plenty, while half the human race lives on less than two dollars a day, is neither just, nor stable.”
Our elected leaders must stop military action and increase humanitarian aid in Afghanistan. We must seek safety, justice and freedom from terrorism for Palestinians as well as Israelis. We must turn away from retribution and toward sustainable, democratic economic development.
 
2. Recognize the role of all parties.
The United States will receive more international support if it recognizes its role in the cycle of terrorism.
Our government armed the Taliban against Russia and armed Iraq against Iran. After the Soviet withdrawal the United States did little to help rebuild Afghanistan, allowing the Taliban to gain power.
Images of Islamic and Arabic peoples as fanatical terrorists have led to ethnic profiling in the United States and neglect in advocating human rights in the Middle East.
 
3. Take initiatives that reduce violence and promote justice. 
We should talk to Taliban leaders about solutions. We must also move rapidly from bombing Afghanistan to aiding its starving people.
Additionally, we must press Israeli and Palestinian leaders to sign a truce that includes preventing new Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
 
4. Re-engage with international forces. 
From the start of his administration, President Bush disengaged from peacemaking between Israel and Palestine, as well as other international efforts.
If the struggle against terrorism is to succeed, we must encourage our government to re-engage in other international efforts.
5. Use force only to apprehend and protect, not destroy.
From Lockerby to Milosevic, from Chile to Rwanda, successful international prosecutions provide a model for handling terrorism without recreating cycles of violence. It takes time, but it works.
We call on elected officials to press for legal rather than military strategies. We must support the international criminal court system.
6. Increase the capacity of multilateral, civilian based organizations.
The fight against international terrorism must be truly multilateral–based not on “with us or against us” bullying strategies, but on collaboration and persuasion.
We call on our elected leaders to re-energize the role of the United Nations and other non-governmental organizations. These groups have successfully delivered humanitarian aid. They have strong international networks.
7. Foster intercultural understanding and reconciliation.
One hopeful sign is that ordinary people are respecting the rights of Islamic and Arabic peoples within the United States. Grassroots initiatives to reach out and protect Islamic centers and mosques must be supported and applauded.
Intercultural reconciliation requires dialogue with Islamic leaders about international issues and education about Islam here in the United States. It calls for Muslims and Arabs to articulate and teach peacemaking practices.
 
These actions will not stop terrorism tomorrow or the next day, but they point to sustainable solutions.
These actions have proven over the past century to be the only sustainable path to peace. Military responses take us farther down the path of fear, anger, injustice and violence that brought us to Sept. 11.
We have the roadmap; we must decide to use it.
Glen Stassen is the Lewis Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the editor of Just Peacemaking. Steven Brion-Meisels is an adjunct professor at Harvard University, director of training and curriculum for Peace Games in Boston, Mass., and a board member of Peace Action.