Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre

Media Release
Date: 18 September 2003

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 twenty-four hour global cease-fire and commitment to non-violence.

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 Pacem 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.” (#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.

Sr Patty Fawkner
Tel: (02) 9356 3888


- received by CathNews 18/9/03