A simple prescription for sub-human sickness of terrorism

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, November 26, 2015

“My parents healed me with the best medicine there is: they loved me.” —Roland Rollinmud, Morley

Since that fateful Friday the 13th in Paris, it won’t surprise any of you that nearly every coffee conversation I’ve had has turned to how we should respond to terrorism’s recent assaults on humanity.

Cochrane artist RICK DUCOMMUN began my latest round of thinking on this with his views on information, misinformation, and disinformation.

An investment consultant by profession, Rick notes how easily people can make the wrong decisions by believing everything they read and hear. We are being overwhelmed with all kinds of information, he says, but we are not very good at discerning the good from the bad. And too often we make our most important decisions based on the bad – on disinformation spread by those with a vested interest in the outcome.

I have to agree, and among the purveyors of such disinformation are the hatemongers in our society who want us to do exactly what the evil Emperor of Star Wars wanted Luke Skywalker to do when he taunted him: “Let the hate flow through you!”

And like Luke, we can choose to say, “Never!”

But just how are we to respond to this plague of terrorism, especially in a world of competing world views in which we are prompted to take revenge against all the wrong people – especially right now, pitting non-Muslim against Muslim? Several of our readers, leaders in their respective religious traditions, have offered their opinions.

IMAM SYED SOHARWARDY is the founder of Muslims Against Terrorism and chair of the Al-Madinah Calgary Islamic Assembly. Their mosque was broken into while he was outside City Hall taking part in a candlelight vigil on behalf of the victims of the Paris attacks. He writes:

“I think the Canadian people must be smart enough not to get into the trap of these terrorists. This is what the terrorists want. Instead of dividing ourselves, we must unite on this: that we are all peace-loving, civilized people, and that we stand together against racism, discrimination, violence and terrorism.  If we unite against terrorism, I am sure the terrorists will be defeated. If we divide ourselves, I am sure the terrorists will win.”

RON ROLHEISER, Catholic scholar, author, and popular visitor to Cochrane, writes:

“Terrorist attacks, like the recent ones in Paris and Mali, call for more, not less, sympathy for true Muslims. It's time to establish a greater solidarity with Islam, notwithstanding extremist terrorism. We are both part of the same family: We have the same God, suffer the same anxieties, are subject to the same mortality, and will share the same heaven. Muslims more than ever need our understanding, sympathy, support, and fellowship in faith.”

ZABI BEHIN, acclaimed engineer and former Cochrane resident, was back in town briefly this past weekend. A deeply committed member of the Baha’i faith, he said to me over coffee:

“When you consider the oneness of humanity – and by extension, the oneness of religion (we are all children of the one God and bear His image) – who are we to do such terrible things against each other in the name of God?”

“We are human beings precisely because we bear the image of God.”

SHAUL OSADCHEY, a frequent contributor to these columns, is senior rabbi at Calgary’s Beth Tzedec synagogue. In his sermon the day after the terrorist attacks in Paris, he pointed a finger at ideological extremism:

“Where religious absolutism prevails, human degradation and suffering soon follow, as exemplified by the Paris attacks,” he said. “Religion, properly reflective of a loving and just God, beckons us to moderation so that we can navigate through life guided by the values of truth, honesty, respect, justice and compassion.

“Our mission is captured in the words of the psalmist: ‘I will not die; I will live, and proclaim the works of the Lord.’ It is our obligation to preserve the memory of the victims of terrorism by actively replacing hatred with trust, prejudice and ignorance with religious literacy; and self-righteousness with uplifting the divine image implanted in every human being.”

ROLAND ROLLINMUD, heritage artist and Elder among the Stoney Nakoda Nation at Morley, shares with us a lesson he learned in response to the cultural terrorism of his residential school days:

“Ahoîpabisîch, they disrespected us,” he said about the residential system. But he found his relief from such disrespect on weekends when he was allowed to go home.

“My parents healed me with the best medicine there is,” he says. “They loved me!”

And in that simple prescription of love, can we not also find a response to the sickness of terrorism that is worthy of our identity as human beings bearing God’s image?


© 2015 Warren Harbeck

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