Terrorists for peace

The world’s most famous terrorist may be forgiven. No, not Osama. Mandela. News last week revealed that Nelson Mandela might be removed from a US official list of terrorists whose travel to the US is severely restricted, only about eighteen years after those mamby-pamby liberals in the Apartheid government removed him from theirs. Any moment now they’ll remove Mother Theresa from their ‘most wanted’ list and un-ban the dangerous anti-capitalist movement known as the Order of Friars Minor (sympathisers call them Franciscan monks).

As the US Congress debated whether to remove Mr Mandela and the ANC (the only democratically elected party in South Africa’s history) from the terrorism list, I’m pretty sure former members of the Apartheid government had no trouble travelling to the USA, being on no such list.

This raises important questions, but, sadly, I’m unsure we Christians are ready to ask, never mind answer them. We are called to follow the Good Shepherd, but we are not, I think, called to be mindless sheep, conformed to and unquestioning of the political assumptions of the society we live in. Yet can we honestly say we resist the temptation to side with the most popular, the most powerful, the strongest opinion in society?

If we don’t, it’s forgivable. The rich and powerful are very good at letting only one side of any story be told. Many Germans were apparently unaware of the death camps until after the Second World War. Many white South Africans were so propagandised that they never questioned Apartheid’s ethics. British slave-owners assumed their right to own human beings. And Christians were among all three of these groups.

We are obviously not so conformed as to think Mr Mandela is a terrorist (though, it is no longer in anyone’s interests to say so, so we shouldn’t be too proud). But what of the man recently imprisoned here for supporting terrorists financially? Where do we stand on that? The Tamil Tigers, who he supported, are guilty of many terrible crimes, of course. But, then, so are their enemies, the Sri Lankan government, if Human Rights Watch is to be believed. It’s certainly not illegal to support them.

There is a fine line between terrorist and freedom fighter. And I’ll be honest with you: I am deeply conflicted about the use of violence against injustice. I empathise deeply with the frustrations of oppressed peoples, but I can also never see Jesus picking up a gun and shooting someone.

The broad definition of terrorism, according to the American government, is ‘the calculated threat or use of violence with the aim of intimidating and provoking fear and damage in order to achieve political, religious, ideological and other goals, typically directed against civilian populations.’ Nelson Mandela did that. But then so did the UK as we bombed Afghanistan in 2001 (and said publicly that we would continue until the population gave up Osama). Former Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Shamir, was himself head of a terrorist group (LEHI) that killed Brits, Arabs and Jews in Palestine as part of their struggle for freedom from occupation – does that sound familiar?

Terrorism does not cease to be terrorism just because you won the Peace Prize, but we put it into context. We seem to be very willing to do that with some agents of terror and less so with others. Are our reasons any different from those who do not serve the Living God? Terrorism is still terrorism if you use fighter jets instead of Molotov cocktails and bomb-vests. Christians should always see violence against civilians as a heinous crime and tragedy, but we should also be aware that there may be more Mandelas out there than we have been led to believe.

This is a pretty important issue for all of us, so i ask that you take into account the analysis Institute Professor and professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Noam Chomsky in the video and links below. (please ignore the silly conspiracy stuff at the end of the video. One can’t control who posts this stuff on YouTube and what they tack onto the end of lectures.)

Some rather thought-provoking links on terrorism:

Amnesty International lecture on the War on Terror — Noam Chomsky

On the Afghanistan War, American Terrorism, and the Role of Intellectuals — Noam Chomsky interviewed by Suzy Hansen

International Terrorism: Image and Reality — Noam Chomsky


One Response

  1. Interview Request

    Hello Dear and Respected,
    I hope you are fine and carrying on the great work you have been doing for the Internet surfers. I am Ghazala Khan from The Pakistani Spectator (TPS), We at TPS throw a candid look on everything happening in and for Pakistan in the world. We are trying to contribute our humble share in the webosphere. Our aim is to foster peace, progress and harmony with passion.

    We at TPS are carrying out a new series of interviews with the notable passionate bloggers, writers, and webmasters. In that regard, we would like to interview you, if you don’t mind. Please send us your approval for your interview at my email address “ghazala.khi at gmail.com”, so that I could send you the Interview questions. We would be extremely grateful.


    Ghazala Khan
    The Pakistani Spectator

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