We are shocked and horrified by the events of Sept. 11. Americans have lost friends and family in the heinous attacks on New York and Washington, and we mourn with those who mourn. Naturally, we all seek to assuage our pain by pursuing justice.
But America’s military retaliation against Afghanistan that started last Sunday will never fulfill its aims of achieving justice and establishing security throughout the world.
To many Americans, justice means waging war against the terrorists and the Middle Eastern countries that support them. Any sympathy we might have had for the people of these countries melts away at the sight of Osama bin Laden thanking God for the attacks, and we were angered by the sight of Palestinian children celebrating the deaths of our loved ones.
But those children, who harbor memories of bulldozed houses and menacing roadblocks, also crave justice and retribution. Whether factual or fabricated, our nation represents oppression rather than freedom to them. In the minds of those cheering Palestinian children, America’s material wealth and its global presence contribute to their misery.
Let us be clear: in no case is violence against another justified. When both sides of a conflict are chronically connected in a web of violence and hate, how can one claim authority as the pure and righteous deliverer of justice? One side thinks it is right and delivers a retributive act against the other. The other feels wronged again and returns with more violence.
The cycle of violence is a monster that feeds upon the two sides’ irreconcilable notions of justice, a monster which births misery that never ends. Justice emerges elusive and intangible, a reflection in the lake, a shadow of our imagination that cannot be grasped. When we seek justice through retributive violence, what we seek is not justice but revenge.
The only solution is to build a civilization of love.
As Christians at Yale, we testify to the enduring truth and redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.Ê We believe that we are all sinful, both as individuals and as nations. From training and placing dictators during the Cold War to forcing Japanese-American citizens into internment camps during World War II, from the transatlantic slave trade to the genocide of native Americans, our nation’s sins, though but a few are mentioned here, humble us before a just and good Creator.
We believe that only God can issue judgment, and that God offers forgiveness to us. Since we have been forgiven, we believe that our appropriate response to seemingly unprovoked violence is not war but mercy, love and peacemaking.
Military action against our enemies, either by air strikes or by targeted assassinations, will never bring back our loved ones and may result in more innocent deaths. Our only hope is real, peaceful, just reconciliation. We support the extradition of the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks to face the world community in an international tribunal or to meet our laws in an American court.
We affirm that punishment must be thorough and restorative and rehabilitative. We reject the death penalty, because each human person is created and precious in God’s sight. If Osama bin Laden is responsible, executing him will only edify his supporters. As Christians, we believe that we must not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.
We commemorate the victims and their families. We express our solidarity with Arab and Muslim Americans and others in the face of discrimination at home. Already, Muslim, Sikh, South Asian, and Arab Americans have been the targets of firebombings, personal attacks, and police profiling. Allowing any more innocent people to suffer, either here or abroad, is a crime against the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
We call for prayerful reflection about this past month’s events, and we call for repentance on our part as the first step towards reconciliation. We look to Christ for a new vision of how to live with each other, how to beat swords into plowshares, how to love our enemies.
Jacob Paul is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College. Ruddy Wang is a senior in Silliman College. They are members of Salt of the Earth.