While I heartily agree with the direction President Biden is heading on most issues, I am troubled by his recent announcement that the U.S. had used a drone to kill Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of Al Qaeda and one of the masterminds behind the 9/11/2001 terrorist attack. The New York Times reported President Biden as saying: “Justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more.” The President reminded us of President George W. Bush and his promise, reiterated by his successors, that the U.S. would track down and get retribution for those involved in 9/11, no matter how long it took.
It is impossible for me to believe that this act of killing al-Zawahiri will make the world more peaceful or safer. To the contrary, I see it as an invitation to all terrorists to up their game and retaliate. No evidence in human history points to violence as leading to lasting peace.
Similarly, I watch with horror as the television news describes in vivid detail the destructive powers of the weapons the US is sending to Ukraine. With each weapon sent, the leaders of Ukraine ask for more and more sophisticated weapons. Do we think this will lead to long-term peace in Russia and Ukraine?
I don’t claim that these situations present easy moral answers to the thorny questions about how to advance world peace. I am not sure what “turn the other cheek” and “give peace a chance” look like in the 21st century. Yet I am confident it does not look like drone murders and escalating wars with more sophisticated weapons.
There is no simple answer. I am reminded of a Twelve Step principle that seems applicable: “If we focus on the problem, the problem gets bigger. If we focus on the solution, the solution gets bigger.”
I took part in a participative sermon recently focused on faith and vigilance. It became a discussion of the connection between faith and love. One commonly quoted Bible definition of faith central to the discussion comes from St. Paul (Hebrews 11:1): “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” Small and large acts of love are the ways we make real a world of peace and harmony that most desire.
Examples in this discussion ranged from a woman carrying a cooler of cold ice waters in her car and offering them to UPS, Amazon, Federal Express, and USPS delivery people she encountered. Stopped at a red light next to a truck, she holds out a cold water. In the sweltering heat and humidity, her kindness is embraced.
On Sunday, I met with a family friend who is a tile contractor. We needed a tile problem resolved in our bathroom. The contractor is an immigrant from El Salvador and does not speak English. I don’t speak Spanish. So, he brought his pregnant wife and his daughter to interpret. He reminded me of another family friend from El Salvador who started as a painter and is now a maintenance engineer for a large apartment complex. When he came to look at a paint job, he also brought his wife and she translated. Love prompted these couples to generously work together for their family good.
When we stretch in small or big acts of love, each of us is acting on what is hoped for and not yet seen. We have a faith in something better. The voices of violence and hate are very loud these days; it takes a lot of courage to disagree with the glorification of war and violence. Perhaps we develop the muscles to try new ways to resolve violence by practicing on small acts of kindness.
Is there enough love to overcome hundreds of years of mistrust and hatred? I don’t know. I do know that if we don’t have faith in some better world we can only hope for and head toward, we are likely condemned to more violence, hatred, and war.
The nonviolent resistance of Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela is widely applauded, yet difficult to operationalize, to address our 21st-century violence. Global Citizen offers five little-known activists as examples of opportunities to work to extend nonviolent peace today. Can small acts of kindness and bigger acts of community and global leadership, create opportunities to let love guide us to a new world filled with peace and harmony?