The violent acts of September 11, 2001 and the subsequent war against terrorism have cost thousands of lives and billions of dollars in losses for communities all across the world. As we approach the first anniversary of this attack against the civilian population of a democratic society, we need to pause and reflect on human history, to help us understand the motives behind such acts and find lasting solutions to the menace of terrorism.
The use of violence to settle conflicts or resolve differences, perceived or real, is almost as old as human history. This mode of conflict resolution involves counter violence and often results in a win-loseӔ situation where the winner takes allӔ. In this mode of conflict resolution the winning side is usually the more powerful and smarter one, but not always the more just side. The losing side is often left with a simmering sense of injustice, loss, hopelessness and anger. Thus while the conflict may have resolved on the surface, the underlying, misgivings, and misunderstandings can continue, and the conflicts can span generations. While the winners reap the benefits of their victory the losers prepare for revengeӔ and hope for their time to come. Unfortunately such means of conflict resolution may also affect innocent bystanders who then get drawn into the conflict, thus widening the scope of the conflict and the violence - counter violence measures.
History teaches us that the quickest way to change human behavior is through fear. However, this change lasts only a short time, and people revert to their usual behaviors once the fear or the perception thereof is gone. Witness the changes in peoples behaviors brought about by all the tyrants and powerful rulers. Not many of them have resulted in sustainable movements worth their name. Religious texts also contain many examples of a change in peoples behaviors when a calamity strikes or is imminent , and reversion to the old ways once the threat is over.
On the other hand a change in behavior that is brought about though love and hope, and through ownership by the people is often slow to evolve but more sustainable. Perhaps the best examples of this kind of change are provided by the religious movements and the recent movements for democracy and human rights. Even though religious groups may have used violence at times, to settle their disputes, it is the hope for peace or salvation or perpetuation of the believerҒs being beyond the current state of physical existence that has provided the sustenance for the beliefs that have perpetuated these movements for centuries. Likewise, while democratic societies may have sometimes resorted to violence to settle their disputes, it is the hope and opportunity that these societies provide to their members that serve as a driving force for a broader acceptance of this form of governanceӔ.
As we analyze the current crisis and the war against terrorism against the background of human history we need to find ways not just to end the current cycle of violence, but also to prevent the use of violence and terrorism as a means of settling disputes and resolving conflicts.
While even a democratic, peaceful and peace loving society can justify an initial violent reaction to a terrorist attack or threat thereof, we cannot depend on violence and fear to find a lasting solution to this menace. Thus a long term and lasting solution to the problem of use of violence as a means of dispute resolution has to depend on creating a win-winӔ situation for all sides which gives people hope and an opportunity for a better future.
If we look at the societies and cultures that are serving as the breeding ground for todays terrorist and extremist ideologies, we see many common threads. They are all afflicted with some combination of poverty, oppression, a sense of injustice, illiteracy or lack of knowledge, and lack of access to healthcare and other basic necessities of life. Thus a long term and sustainable resolution to terrorism and extremism must identify and address the root cause(s) of those ideologies and change the environment that sustains them. Such a solution must give people an ownership of their destinies and hope for the future. As Secretary General Kafi Anan has said, ғNo one in this world can feel comfortable, or safe, while so many are suffering and deprived.
We at the Human Development Foundation (http://www.hdf.com) are committed to facilitating ԓa non-political movement for positive social change and community empowerment. Since our inception in 1997, we have been addressing the poverty complex through partnerships that empower deprived and oppressed communities and give them access to their basic needs and provide opportunity and hope for the future. On this first anniversary of the terrorist acts in New York we renew our pledge to continue our struggle for a positive social change. We feel that we the people of the United States of America in general and the immigrants from the developing world in particular have a critical role to play in the struggle against poverty, oppression, and injustice. We call upon all citizens in the community to join the civil societyԒs movement for a positive social change.
Shahnaz S. Khan.
M. Khalid Riaz.
Human Development Foundation of North America.
Visit www.hdf.com and also yespakistan.com for more information.
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