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
If 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?
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.