Terrorism : How the world can respond

One of the most troubling things in our world today is the rise of terrorism, and it’s getting worse, not better. In general, the world’s approach to terrorists is to hate and despise them and vow to catch them and wipe them out. Unfortunately, this is the way to increase terrorism, not decrease it. This has been well known by many leaders of our societies over time, including Martin Luther King Jnr. who said “Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

I’m not advocating that we love the terrorists who murder and injure our friends (at least not like you think) but I do have a strategy for how our world can respond to terrorism.



The terrorists who are performing these atrocious acts are people, just like you and me in all ways that matter, however their thoughts are different to ours. They think, and truly believe, that we are bad and that they are doing the right thing. We think they are bad and that we are doing the right thing. Hence we get a terrible tension between the two groups.

Normally, if you look behind the rhetoric of the terrorists and honestly consider why they feel like harming us, you’ll see some glimmers of reasons why they are so upset. Somewhere in the past, we have done something that has been hurtful or disrespectful to them. Often, we’re still doing some of these things. When something like this is brought to our attention we often say and think “ok, that wasn’t good but it’s not such a major thing, why can’t they just forget about it now?”. I’m sure this sort of thing happens on both sides.

We have been somewhat indifferent (see The Silent Power of Indifference) to these background issues for many decades and the animosity has grown to a dangerous level. That is what we see today emerging as terrorist attacks and this is why we must talk about this.

Attacks against countries, religions and ethnic groups

These days we see terror attacks against a wide range of countries, religions and ethnic groups. There’s a lot of unhappiness in the world. Whenever a terrorist attack happens in a certain country, that country seems to take it as a personal issue and vows that they will seek revenge. Oh dear. Wasn’t anybody listening to Martin Luther King Jnr. and others? Once we get into a “you kill me, I’ll kill you” argument, we are all basically lost.

As I discussed in my post “We are not so different“, it’s really silly to hold onto differences between ourselves, differences like countries. We really are very similar. All of us. Every human in the world is very closely related to all other humans and nature. When we react as a single country, a single religion or a single ethnic group, we belittle ourselves and show our weakness.

It’s important that we stand together to fight terrorism, but to do that we’ll have to put our “differences” behind us, quite literally.

Joining as one

terrorismIf it’s true (surely it is) that the number of people in the world with serious terrorism objectives is very small compared to those who don’t, then the most powerful thing that can be done would be for the overwhelming majority to band together and denounce terrorism. Imagine this, all countries, all religions, all ethic groups coming together as one to denounce terrorism. That would have a hugely powerful effect on the world.

The world has formed coalitions to fight against ISIS, but we’ve formed many of them, which just shows how deeply divided we think we are. In this report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute we see that, in January 2016,  there were “over 60 countries in a United States-led coalition, 34 in a newly announced Saudi-led coalition and 4 in the Russian-led coalition”. In this wikipedia page, they talk about a French led coalition as well.

What does this say to world (and to ISIS) if we have multiple coalitions against a common enemy? Clearly it’s a sign that we have some level of hatred for each other. Even when faced with a problem like the terrorism of ISIS, we can’t bear to fight alongside some of our fellow human beings.

The most powerful way to fight ISIS is by talking, but talking with a common voice. If the whole world could get together and send the same message to ISIS, then they will know that they are fighting the whole world. ISIS will know that it cannot split us apart and distract us. They’ll know that there goal will be unachievable. As long as everyone stands together, ISIS cannot succeed.

Standing as one includes countries like Iraq and Syria from where ISIS appears to have originated. It includes Islam and all religions. It includes all ethic groups, including the ethic groups of many of the ISIS members. Standing as one in such a way and staying strong, will ensure that terrorism is eliminated.

After joining seamlessly together on this issue and speaking out against ISIS and terrorism with one voice, we must be prepared to keep peace with force. Unfortunately, our world sometimes only responds to force. It doesn’t have to be this way but it is right now.

What now, can we do it?

terrorismNow comes the interesting bit.

Can you imagine all of the countries in the world coming together against terrorism? It would be a real stretch. There are many countries who would have real problems working with certain other countries. Some religions have dislikes for others. Some ethnic groups would never be in the same room as others.

We have real dislike and hatred in our world, even apart from anything ISIS and other terrorists are doing.

This is why we have terrorism. The world has open wounds of hatred and we are not being successful at healing them. ISIS is born from these wounds and they are proliferating because of these wounds.

If we can heal the wounds, put our differences behind us, forgive each other and be compassionate, then we could come together as one and repel ISIS and other terrorists. If the whole world truly came together, then ISIS would have nowhere to go. They’d have no agenda to follow and they would be extinguished.

Instead of politicians talking about airstrikes against ISIS, we need to hear them talking compassionately about all of our human friends on the planet, talking about healing the differences between us that we used to have in the past. This is the most powerful way to talk.

It sounds almost impossible for everyone to come together, but it’s infinitely possible. All it takes is desire and will, nothing else. Coming together, and healing the wounds we like to ignore, is the guaranteed way to repel terrorism and ISIS. If we don’t join together, we’ll have endless difficult situations ahead of us.

2 Responses to “Terrorism : How the world can respond”

  1. Peter

    Here’s a comment I received from my friend, Maryse, in French. You can see the original comment in French at the bottom, and just below is my attempt at a translation into English.

    I read with great interest these last messages. I agree with all that I can read there, and am going to try and summarise my point of view. Firstly, well understood, I think that the “terrorists” are indeed human beings like everyone else, like us. Many people reassure themselves by thinking that they are monsters who do not live like humans but that’s not true. Also, it is clear to me that most Western countries have significant responsibility in the emergence of Daesh (ISIS). The war in Iraq being the main trigger. But also, during history, an arrogant attitude, a lack of respect for Arabic people, and the exploitation of the natural resources of these countries who served only their own interests. That has certainly given birth to this bitterness and created deep wounds.
    I also don’t believe that force is the solution. Unity of all countries, including all religious communities, all ethnicities, cultures, is fundamental. Even if that seems like Utopia.
    Economic sanctions, on the condition that they don’t penalise the general population, could have some success. But, in the end and above all, stop blindly bombing these countries like the Russians, in particular, have done. Impose no more suffering on these peoples, stopping stirring up hatred and generating new recruits for Daesh. Yes, the world has a profound need for human values, tolerance, acceptance and recognition of others. We are far from this at the moment, but each moment of individual conscience is a step in the right direction.

    J’ai lu avec un grand intérêt tes derniers envois . Je suis d’accord avec tout ce que j’ai pu y lire , et vais essayer de résumer mon point de vue. D’abord, bien entendu, je pense que les “terroristes “sont effectivement des êtres humains comme les autres, comme nous. Beaucoup de personnes se rassurent en pensant que ce sont des monstres qui ne vivent pas comme des humains mais ce n’est pas exact. Aussi, il me paraît clair que la plupart des pays occidentaux ont une grande part de responsabilité dans l’émergence de Daesh. La guerre en Irak en étant le principal déclencheur. Mais aussi, au cours de l’histoire, une attitude dominatrice, un manque de respect des peuples Arabes, et une exploitation des richesses naturelles de ces pays qui n’a servi que leurs propres intérêts Cela a bien sûr fait naître des rancoeurs et créé de profondes blessures.
    Je ne crois pas non plus que la force soit la solution. L’unité de tous les pays, membres de toutes les communautés religieuses, toutes les ethnies, cultures ,est fondamentale. Même si cela semble utopique.
    Des sanctions économiques, à condition qu’elles ne pénalisent pas les populations pourraient avoir une certaine efficacité. Mais enfin et surtout, arrêter de bombarder ces pays aveuglément comme l’ont fait particulièrement les Russes. Imposer plus de souffrances à ces populations ne fera qu’attiser la haine et offrir de nouvelles recrues à Daesh. Oui, le monde a un profond besoin de valeurs humaines, tolérance, acceptation et reconnaissance de l’autre. On est loin de ça pour le moment mais chaque prise de conscience individuelle est un pas dans cette direction.

    • Peter

      Many thanks for your lovely thoughts and sentiments Maryse. Just because we believe Utopia is not possible doesn’t mean we shouldn’t actively keep the dream of it. I believe it is within reach and much closer than we might think.


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