The Common Good


Sojomail - September 24, 2001


                       S O J O M A I L

          Promoting faith, reason, compassion, and justice
                   in days of violence and fear

                 Brought to you by SojoNet
              Publisher of Sojourners magazine


          SojoMail will continue to be delivered to
          you daily this week...responding to the
          events of September 11, the suffering
          left in its wake, the threat of a global
          war, and the historic shaping of our
          moral character, now and for the future.


++++++++++++++++++++ 24-September-2001 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++
++++++++++++++++++++ "Help us dig deep" +++++++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Thich Nhat Hanh's wise counsel

 H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
     *What's next?

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *A prayer to end the terror

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *United pilot: throw blankets on hijackers

 B o o m e r a n g
     *Letters from around the globe


Q u o t e  o f  t h e  Day

What needs to be done right now [in America]
is to recognize the suffering, to embrace it,
and to understand it. We need calmness and
lucidity so that we can listen deeply to and
understand our own suffering, the suffering of
the nation, and the suffering of others. By
understanding the nature and the causes of the
suffering, we will then know the right path
to follow.

      - Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk/teacher


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
What's next?

By Jim Wallis

Tomorrow will be two weeks since what everyone now
just calls "September 11." None of us is really sure
what¹s next. But here are some thoughts.

The Bush administration has been embroiled in a great
internal debate on how to respond to the terrorist
attack on the United States 13 days ago. There has
been alarming talk of "ending states," "crusades,"
"infinite justice," and bringing people back "dead or
alive." Voices for bombing not only Afghanistan
but several other countries that have harbored or
sponsored terrorism have been loud and strong.

But there have also been more thoughtful voices of
reason and restraint, pressing for a targeted
response against those proven responsible for murdering
nearly 7,000 people in a single day. Religious
leaders have called for justice instead of
vengeance, and opposed retaliation against
more innocent people. And despite American anger
at the attacks, there has been significant public
opinion opposing indiscriminate military counter-
strikes. Every day that doesn't happen is a good
day, and one more day to reflect both on what we
should do and how we should do it.
Every indication is that Secretary of State Colin
Powell has led the argument for focusing on the
networks of terrorists rather than countries and
their populations. Powell's approach appears to
be winning. On the Sunday morning news programs,
Powell suggested that President Bush's pledge of
"patient justice" (used in his speech last Thursday
night) means the strategy will be one of rooting
out a vast network of terrorists through a variety
of means, including economic, diplomatic, and 
possible military measures.

What must we do?  First, it is critical that we 
continue to raise our voices to hold the mass 
murderers responsible, but in ways that protect 
the countless people who would so easily become 
"collateral damage" in a rush to war. Speaking 
of necessary "police actions" is better language 
than war, pushing for the greatest international 
and multilateral participation possible is of 
vital importance, and lifting up the rules of 
international law as the U.S. response is undertaken 
will be critical - like basing whatever response 
is made on the presentation of hard evidence of 
responsibility (as Powell has now promised the 
U.S. would do). 

Second, Bush¹s call to respect and protect 
Arab-Americans and Muslims should help us defend 
them in American communities, another critical task. 
And his distinction between the Afghan people and
the Taliban should be invoked if the military
begins to threaten the bombing of Kabul.

Third, despite the positive notes on Bush's Thursday
night speech mentioned above, the most serious
failing of the speech and of all U.S. political
leaders (and the media) throughout this crisis so far
is the failure to provide any real answers to the 
questions the American people are asking - Why did 
this happen? Why do so many people hate us? Etc.
Bush's speech lacked a Lincolnesque quality of
self-examination. Lincoln, unlike most American
presidents, pushed the nation to look at its own
sins in the midst of crisis, to dig deep into our
spiritual selves, even to seek repentance and
turn to God. 

But talk of national self-examination
is complicated in this situation. Some critics
on the left sound almost like another version of Jerry
Falwell and Pat Robertson, blaming America for
these attacks as if we deserved it for our many
sins - though they would substitute U.S. foreign
policy, militarism, and global economic domination
for the Falwellian diatribes against abortion,
gays, feminists, and the ACLU.
We must find a way to make this a "teachable
moment" rather than merely a blame game. We
must speak of the need to drain the swamps of
injustice that breed the mosquitos of terror,
but without seeming to justify or excuse
the utterly inexcusable acts we witnessed in
New York and Washington. We must not shirk from
rooting out the terror we have experienced, but
also commit ourselves to the prophetic task of 
examining its deeper roots. 

Finally, in bringing to justice the few thousand estimated
to be involved in murderous terrorism, the response must
not inflame and infuriate the tens of millions more
in the Arab world (and elsewhere) who are, to
use Colin Powell¹s words yesterday, "very unhappy
with American presence in many parts of the
world." That sentence must be unpacked for the
American people, but not in a way that seems to
blame ordinary Americans for being attacked.
How we might begin to do that will be the
subject of my next column.



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S o u l   W o r k s
A prayer to end the terror

by Lindsay McLaughlin

*Terrorism has been a personal issue for Lindsay
McLaughlin since 1979, when her father was killed
by terrorists in Afghanistan. He was serving as the
U.S. ambassador in Kabul when his car was stopped
on the way to work on February 14; he was taken
to a hotel room and bound and gagged and died in
a hail of gunfire a few hours later. He was buried
in Arlington Cemetery on February 20, just down
the hillside from Kennedy's eternal flame. Ms.
McLaughlin formerly served as a managing editor
at Sojourners. She wrote this prayer in response
to the September 11 tragedy:


Creator God,

Heal the broken bodies, hearts, and lives of your
children who have suffered in terror and anguish
on one of the deadliest days ever on American soil. 
Help us to dig deep to the roots of our faith for 
sustenance, solace, and wisdom.

The terrorists have offered us a stark view of the
world they would create, where the remedy to every
human grievance and injustice is to resort to the
random and cowardly violence of revenge, even
against the most innocent.

Help us to deny the terrorists their victory by
refusing to submit to a world created in their image.
We must not allow this terror to drive us away from
being the people God has called us to be.

Terrorism must end and terrorists brought to justice.
But we now realize that military might, missile
defense systems, security checkpoints, and intelligence
agencies cannot keep us safe from acts of terror
born of hatred.

We can kill the terrorists and imprison their accomplices.
We can invade and devastate the countries that harbor
them. But we cannot kill the hatred nor destroy the anger.

Give us the courage to stop the terror and violence the
only way we can - at its source.  We owe it to our
children and to the world to look at the roots of the
anger that gives rise to terrorism and to grow and
change where we must. Give us the courage to call on
our leaders to act and lead us in ways that are truly
counter-terrorist - ways of community, compassion, and
justice for all the world.

We have seen terrorism now on an unprecedented scale.
Our response must also be unprecedented. God heal us.
God give us grace. God give us courage. God bless
America. God bless the world. Amen.




C u l t u r e   W a t c h
United pilot: throw blankets on hijackers

A pilot's message to passengers Saturday, September
15, aboard United Airlines Flight 564 out of Denver,
as described by a passenger to John McCaslin, who
in turn reported in The Washington News:

"Sometimes a potential hijacker will announce that
he has a bomb. There are no bombs on this aircraft
and if someone were to get up and make that claim,
don't believe him. If someone were to stand up,
brandish something such as a plastic knife and say,
"This is a hijacking" or words to that effect, here
is what you should do:

"Every one of you should stand up and immediately
throw things at that person - pillows, books,
magazines, eyeglasses, shoes - anything that will
throw him off balance and distract his attention.
If he has a confederate or two, do the same with
them. Most important: Get a blanket over him, then
wrestle him to the floor and keep him there.
We'll land the plane at the nearest airport and
the authorities will take it from there.

"Remember, there will be one of him and maybe a
few confederates, but there are 200 of you. Now,
since we're a family for the next few hours, I'll
ask you to turn to the person next to you, introduce
yourself, tell them a little about yourself and ask
them to do the same."

At the end of his address, Flight 564's passengers
gave their pilot a round of applause.

For the full story, go to:


B o o m e r a n g

Gerhard Ruediger of Germany wrote:

I am glad to receive your SojoMails these days with
some balanced and thoughtful discussion of what is
going on in the U.S. right now - by far much better
than what I get from some other (now almost right-
wing) Christian discussion groups and email lists.


Clive Perrett of England wrote:

As I understand it, all three religions - Judaism,
Christianity, and Islam - stem from the same root, from
Abraham. A central tenet of Islam is that "there is no
God but God", i.e. that there is only one God, or one
divine essence of the universe. Jesus, in Islam, is
regarded as a prophet, and although not understood as
the son of God, he is often spoken of as the spirit of
God, which in Christian terms, I think, would be the
Holy Spirit. The term Islam itself means peace, and
to be a Muslim means to be one who is surrendered to
the will of God (which is surely the ideal of all who
believe in God). Islam is concerned with justice, but
also with mercy. Christianity is concerned with
forgiveness, and with the power of love. "Do good to
those who hate you, pray for those who spitefully
use you, love your enemies, and turn the other cheek."
Talk of vengeance and revenge is surely more pagan
than Christian. The "fundamentalisms" on all sides
do not seem like true religions. Surely humility
and the absence of pride has to be a part of all
I admire the bravery of Sojourners in publishing
so many different views, and opening up debate on
these very serious matters. God bless you.


Sam Soysa of Newcastle, Australia:

Currently ethnic Australians (i.e., non-Anglo
Australians) are being unfortunately hounded and
harassed. These are folks who have nothing to do with
the Middle East and would in most cases not even
know the "politics."
Sadly, most key politicians in Australia have been
quite muted in their stand about unity and the need
to respect the integrity all Australians. Other
leaders of opinion - including the Christian Churches -
have adopted quite a "hands-off" approach.
President Bush, to his great credit, made a stern and
impassioned appeal to all Americans to stand together,
and that the U.S. government would not tolerate any
discrimination in the racial stability of the U.S.
This is a measure of statesmanship. What, then, are
the politicians and people of influence in Australia
so frightened about when it comes to taking a solid
moral stand on social issues that have a serious
bearing on the very fiber of Australian society? Is
this because it is close to election time?


Barbara Le Rossignol of Melbourne, Australia, wrote:

I write out of fear and helplessness - feelings
common to many throughout the world, I know. I am
in Australia, a small country that has no choice
but to do exactly what we are told to do by the U.S.
So, too, does every country that does not wish to be 
treated as an enemy - maybe not attacked but likely 
to be made the victim of U.S. economic might.

I  know it will probably be impossible to prevent a
first attack of horror and bloodiness. My greatest
trouble is for what happens after. There is no
clear voice of dissent allowed - no way to temper the
cries of vengeance. A democracy like yours (and ours),
with a largely two-party system, relies for its
effectiveness on an opposition party that constantly
questions, challenges, and argues with the government
of the day. I know there are many in the U.S. who want
any actions to be moderated with a generous and humble
worldview. But those voices do not get heard in your
Congress. Where, then, is the hope for change? And as no
country in the world has the power to stop the U.S. in its
might, it seems that the only hope for the world is in
the effective operation of your internal political


Jeremy Albers of West Chicago, Illinois, wrote:

I'd like to respond to Nigel Mander of New Zealand.

Inflationary media rhetoric aside, the events of
last week were horrifying. They were unspeakably
tragic. So were the bombs dropped on Hiroshima, Nagasaki,
Dresden, Tokyo, London, Pearl Harbor...and the list
goes on. But my question for Nigel is this: Why does
New Zealand still enjoy that cherished freedom to
which he refers? For better or for worse, it's
because military force has been used to defend it
from those who would have crushed it underfoot.

I stand first in line to condemn the many, many
conflicts in which the U.S. (which often seems
to be the only nation singled out these days) has
been the unpardonable aggressor. Yet, just as
Tamim Ansary rightly pleaded in SojoMail, we dare
not paint aggressor and true victim with the
same brush.

To take Nigel's examples to their logical
conclusion, I'm not quite clear on how he can
in good conscience grant moral equivalence to,
say, Winston Churchill and Adolph Hitler. Yes,
both endorsed the use of violence, and violence
can never ultimately bring about a just and
lasting peace. But I just can't bring myself
to equate a rapist with the bystander who
comes to the woman's defense.

If the purpose of a government is to protect its
citizens - the poor, the needy, the destitute,
and everyone alike - then some action will,
unfortunately, have to be taken in order to prevent
such unspeakable tragedy from taking place next
year, next month, next a town near you or
me. I pray our leaders will have the restraint, even
amidst the popular frenzy for retribution, to show
the world the crucial moral line between necessary
justice and bloodthirsty revenge.

Nigel, I'm pretty glad we both have the freedom
in peace to ask hard questions in each of our
countries. I only hope it continues.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of
views. The views expressed are not necessarily 
those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice 
heard? Send Boomerang e-mails to the editor:



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