Seeking Alternatives: Are Non-Violent Responses to Terrorism Possible?
Few terms have so furtively made their way into our daily discourse. Yet while the specter of terrorism has gained a sense of urgency in our homes, churches, and communities, most of us have only a vague impression of what it is. The word “terrorism” has been used in distinct ways throughout the centuries to describe a wide range of actions and actors. First popularized during the French Revolution (1793-94) when it was used (rather positively!) to describe the methods wielded by the revolutionary state, the term “terrorism” has since shifted to describe anti- government activity (such as the anti-colonial movements of the 1950s and 1960s), and, more recently, nebulous movements that have political causes and networks beyond national borders (such as al Qaeda and ISIS).
Despite decades of formal attempts through the United Nations and other bodies, the international community has failed to come to a consensus on a universal definition for the word “terrorism.” Indeed, shifting terminology—such as “insurgency,” “terrorism,” and “violent extremism”—identifies the complex challenge of violence today.
While there is no consensus definition, however, virtually all experts point to two identifying components of “terrorism:” the targeting of civilians and the cultivation of fear. One basic definition suggests that terrorism is violence motivated by political, social or religious ideology and used to invoke fear and bring about change.
What can people of peace do to respond?
The following suggestions, while not constituting an exhaustive list, provide a starting place for individuals, organizations, and churches to start thinking about nonviolent responses to the fear that terrorism creates.
A supplement to the 2015 Peace Sunday packet.
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