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How to Be?
A newsletter article on 9/11 in a local parish, about the Taliban, Osama bin Laden, and real victims of religious violence.

By Jarmo Tarkki

It does not seem to go away, the feeling of despair, hopelessness, fear, anger. What is the future going to bring to us, what is the world going to be like for our kids? Lives were lost, stuff was destroyed, the economy is wounded, American psyche has been damaged.

It seems that the evidence is increasingly pointing to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda group. The Afghan Talibans are harboring bin Laden. Here are some views concerning the Talibans:

"The Taliban has recently banned the following subversive items: lipstick, nail polish, chessboards, movies, fireworks, fashion catalogs, cassettes, musical instruments, Western clothes, greeting cards with pictures of people, computer disks.and the Internet." (Newsweek, July 30, 2001).

Based on many reports the Taliban rulers have imposed a great number of other rules, many of them, and not surprisingly, restricting women's liberties: no school, no driving, no touching men (other than her husband), if a woman's leg is exposed it will be amputated. Failure to pray is punishable by imprisonment. You may remember the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the two gigantic statues, which were considered to be among Asia 's great archeological treasures. The statues were an abomination to the Talibans and that is why they had to be destroyed.

It is very important to understand that the policies and actions of the Taliban radicals do not represent the majority views of Islam. The radical Taliban views, as reported, represent primitive, ignorant and truly fanatic private beliefs of a rather small group.

Some time ago fanatics that called themselves Christians bombed abortion clinics and killed doctors who perform abortions. Would we say that they represent Christianity? Yes, an ignorant, primitive and fanatic version of it, but they do not come close to the views of the mainline Christian Churches.

I wish there would be an easy way to convince the Talibans, this group that is now terrorizing the rest of the world, essentially holding us as hostages, that their views are immoral, wrong and unacceptable to the rest of the world. But what can we do? It seems to me that one man's justified goal is always another man's justified reason for action. What is the morally correct response that would put an end to the cycle of violence? We need to do something, doing nothing is certainly not the answer.

I am as puzzled about this as are so many you. History reminds me of Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister who went to Germany in September of 1938, granted almost all of Hitler's demands, returned to England as a popular hero speaking of "peace with honour". His policy of "appeasement" toward Hitler's Germany did not bring peace. According to some historians it made Hitler's atrocities possible. Are we now in a similar situation?

My belief is that we as a nation will eventually pull out of this. And there is a silver lining: perhaps some good things can come out this tragedy. We were becoming an increasingly vain society. We debated endlessly one congressman's sex life, we became politically super correct. In order not to offend some pet loving people we were advised to call pets "animal companions," black and white film "different degrees of gray film", disabled became "differently abled". We were energized by trivial issues while we successfully ignored the rest of the world and its suffering. My hope is that these terrible events will serve as a call to all of us to "get real", to not loose sight of the truly important things.

One Afghan man wrote: "When you think Taliban, think Nazis. When you think Bin Laden, think Hitler. And when you think "the people of Afghanistan" think "the Jews in the concentration camps." It's not only that the Afghan people had nothing to do with this atrocity. They were the first victims of the perpetrators."

This is what matters in our world today, it is not trivial and it is not vain. It is real.

What is your opinion? Please write down your thoughts!

See you at Church, Jarmo Tarkki




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Date Added: 9/23/2001 Date Revised: 9/23/2001

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