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Posted January 16, 2006

The greatest terror in terrorism for our country

By Father Eugene Hemrick



As we move into 2006, what most must we do to counter the terrorism that threatens it?

When we normally think of terrorism, we see it as a whole. And yet many terrorist groups exist for different reasons.

Some groups believe America and its allies are out to conquer the world.

Some believe they are fighting a jihad a holy war. Interestingly, the word jihad means to strive, and in the case of Muslims it means to strive to advance Islam.

And then there are some terrorists who believe their cultures are being assimilated into a corrupt western culture. Suddenly old traditions are being disbanded in the name of democracy.

The more we learn of Iraq, the more we also realize that terrorism is not only aimed at America, but it is caused by tribal infighting. Sunnis killing Shiites and vice versa.

No doubt many other reasons behind terrorism can be found. When all the sides of terrorism are analyzed, I believe the one we need to fear most is that we don't join them and revert to terrorism.

As terrorism becomes more brutal, the natural tendency is to retaliate with brutality. Many of our news accounts have already documented injustices and atrocities the U.S. has committed. We have heard talk about possibly using torture methods as a legitimate means of weeding out terrorists.

Wars always bring out the worst in humans. It doesn't take much to take a life for a life when you experience a comrade killed before your eyes and companions around you are screaming in pain.

If Americans are to defeat terrorism, we must hold the line on justice and not revert to barbarism. The sacredness of life and the rights of people, no matter how despicable some may be, must be upheld. This may sound very difficult to swallow. Even in the history of Christianity, we have seen periods of barbarism. But then, that was in the past. Our Christian tradition has evolved into one that holds that there is goodness in everyone. It also believes that no matter how bad a person may be, he or she can be redeemed and order restored.

On the east side of the U.S. Capitol the frieze "The Genius of America" reminds us of a wise, age old principle that has made our nation strong and respected. The allegorical figure of America stands flanked by Justice to her right with balancing scales and a scroll that reads "Constitution, 17 September 1787." A woman leaning on an anchor is to her left, symbolizing hope.

The frieze, which was inspired by John Quincy Adams, reminds America that it may hope for success as long as it cultivates justice.

In the pastoral constitution on the church in the modern world of the Second Vatican Council, this same message is reiterated: "Peace is not the mere absence of war or the simple maintenance of a balance of power between forces, nor can it be imposed at the dictate of absolute power. It is called, rightly and properly, a work of justice. It is the product of order, the order implanted in human society by its divine founder, to be realized in practice as men hunger and thirst for ever more perfect justice."

More than 2,000 soldiers have now died in the Iraq war. The more suicide bombings and deaths we experience, the more the tendency to ignore justice and to win at all costs.

If we give into this temptation, the war on terrorism will be lost. Victory will only come when we practice the justice America was founded on, our Church propounds, and God planted in the hearts of humankind.