Some urge nonviolent response, an end to `cycle of retribution'

Terrorism Strikes America

The Response

September 15, 2001|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

As the cries for vengeance and retaliation grow after Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, a small but determined portion of the faith community is calling for a nonviolent response.

Pacifist groups are calling on the nation and its policymakers to express their anger peacefully.

American Friends Service Committee, the social-action arm of the Quakers, urged Americans to "break the cycle of violence and retribution." The committee has begun a "No More Victims" campaign to support victims and survivors, to seek peaceful solutions to acts of hatred and to stand with Arab and Muslim communities.

"What we're trying to do is acknowledge feelings of grief and fear and anger, because we have them, everyone has them," said Mary Ellen McNish, AFSC general secretary. "The feelings to seek revenge we all understand. But we're asking everyone to use this horrific time as an opportunity to break the cycle of violence. I don't believe at all [that] a violent response will bring back anybody killed or bring justice or increase our safety. In fact, it may increase the likelihood of more terrorist attacks."

The Quakers were joined by the Mennonites, the Church of the Brethren and Pax Christi, USA, a Catholic pacifist group that many U.S. bishops belong to. All of the groups have called for restraint by civilian and military leaders.

"As people of faith and disciples of the nonviolent Jesus, we must be willing, even now in this darkest moment, to commit ourselves and call our sisters and brothers to summon the strength to resist the impulse for vengeance," Pax Christi said in a statement.

The pacifist response does not mean doing nothing about the terrorist attacks, the groups said.

"We feel very strongly they should be brought to justice under the rule of law," McNish said.

David Robinson, national coordinator for Erie, Pa.-based Pax Christi, said, "When we call for restraint, we're not saying we let this pass. What we're saying is this is not a military situation. ... This is a time right now for weeping and burying the dead. We speak out and call for restraint because, unfortunately, the drumbeats of war are already being beaten."

Colman McCarthy, a former Washington Post columnist who directs the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington, said the country faces an important moral choice. "This is not a question of good against evil. It's a question of violence or nonviolence," he said.

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