Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Hope: The Antidote to Terror

Q-- Eight years after the U.S. attacked Afghanistan, fighting continues. Religious extremists in the Taliban and al-Qaeda retain significant power there. What is our moral responsibility to the people of Afghanistan? If religion is part of the problem there, how can it be part of the solution?

For more than thirty years Afghanistan has been a country mired in turmoil and military upheaval. Beginning with Soviet invasion, then civil war, and US invasion in 2001, the Afghan people have been a people unable to find rest from war. Several generations have now matured in Afghanistan that have known only the realities of daily life grounded only by the certainties of violence and death. Since the US invasion into Afghanistan in 2001, over 30,000 civilians have died. Against this bleak history, the Afghan people deserve hope.

With Afghanistan’s history of military instability, some might argue that we are justified to leave Afghanistan as we found it, as a place in continual conflict. Yet, as muddied as the situation may be, we have a greater responsibility to the Afghan people. We need look no further than the phrase which former President George W. Bush used to coin the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, “The War on Terror.” If we are to truly defeat terror and eradicate terrorism then we must work to oppose terror with hope; hope is the only true victor over terror.

Hope is our moral and religious responsibility to the Afghan people. To a people stuck in recurring, decade long cycles of violence and instability, we are called to offer hope that their past isn’t doomed to repeat itself. They deserve the hope that when the United States leaves, we won’t be back again. They deserve hope in a future that is not tied to the industries of war and the dealings of death.

God brings hope in the midst of death and to those who mourn. And so we are called to help bring about hope in this place. In this way, religion can be a part of a solution. A solution where the concern is not the ability of the other to harm us or inflict death, but the concern is of the other’s ability and ours to have hope in a different future.

We are called to build the foundations of this future. We are called to help build the foundations of civilization, eroded over the past thirty years of war. We are called to build infrastructure, provide health care, and education. We need to put into place the building blocks of a society and economy not reliant on the industry of war. In doing so we will be helping to shape a hopeful future and clear a new path forward for the Afghan people. After more than thirty years, they deserve it.


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