Anyone who is a regular reader of our blog will know that we normally avoid writing political type posts. There are a number of reasons for this, they can be so divisive and there are already so many people out there putting their two-bobs worth in that sometimes they just feel like more noise rather than saying anything constructive. But this week I’m fed up, this week I feel like I need to stand up and have a say, and hopefully put a voice of reason into the mix. Over the last couple of weeks we have seen a number of horrific attacks, particularly those in Manchester and London, as well as smaller scale incidents in France and Australia, which have occurred in the name of terrorism. Each attack has been claimed by ISIS or a similar organisation as being carried out by one of their “soldiers”. These attacks are senseless and seem to have no goal other than death and destruction, and causing fear and anxiety amongst the nations in which they occur.
So what is it about the attacks this week that has got to me? Sadly enough, as terrible as these events have been it’s not the events that have gotten to me, but instead the response. Following each incident we have seen significant media coverage trying to unpack each and every detail, from the perpetrators to the victims, and everything in between. And following each attack we have seen a response from our political leaders, some constructive and reassuring, others not so much. These attackers have one aim: to create fear and division amongst people to try and undermine efforts to stop them. This week we have seen some of our leaders make statements of resilience and resolve, that we will not give in and we do not accept that these attacks are a reflection of nations or religions. Unfortunately, we have also seen other leaders come out and use these events to promote policies of banning people based on where they are travelling from or the religion they believe in. These leaders, who claim to be trying to stop terrorism, are instead promoting the same fear and division that the terrorists are. These attitudes are then reflected in social media with people singling out religious or ethnic groups as being evil or unworthy of trust and equality. These responses simply continue the cycle of mistrust, anger and division which gets us nowhere.
Now before you jump down my throat (or onto the comments board) and accuse me of being a “bleeding heart lefty” or whatever, let me make a few things clear. Yes I believe we should take a stand against groups like Al-Qaeda, ISIS and whoever else comes along. Yes I believe that we should do everything in our power to stop these attacks. Yes I believe law enforcement, and if needed our defence forces, should be given the resources they need to do it. BUT, no I don’t believe that targeting a race or a religion is the answer. How about instead of blaming these groups we bring it back to what it really is: people seeking to cause harm to others for their own gain and using religion as an excuse. Islam is no more inherently violent than any other religion, and let’s be real, every religion has been misused to justify violence at some point in history. That doesn’t make religion bad (lots of horrible things have been done without religion as a justification), it means that humans can find excuses for their bad behaviour and religion is often a convenient one. We need to stop allowing ourselves to be blinded by the propaganda and see past it to the fact that so often these attacks are carried out by people whose intention is simply to cause harm.
While these events will always bring out strong emotions, and so they should, we have a choice about how we respond. In the days following these large scale terrorist attacks, and often the small ones, there is always another type of story that emerges: the stories of human sacrifice and unity. We hear the stories of the people who have run into the fray to help those around them, the people who have spent hours driving people away from the danger zone, and those who have opened up their homes to those who have nowhere to go. These are the stories we should be focusing on when these things happen. Instead of focusing on the evil of the offenders we should be focusing on the heroism of everyday people who go above and beyond to help others in crisis. And once the crisis is over and the dust has settled we should continue this focus. Instead of promoting fear and mistrust we should respond with faith and compassion. Instead of responding with exclusion and division, we should promote unity and solidarity. Instead of letting hate win, we should overcome it with love. As Martin Luther King Jnr said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” That is how we will overcome terrorism: by refusing to give in to terror and instead living in love.