Right now, the world is remembering the 11 September , 2001, attacks on the United States. (Well, the world except my family – 11 September is my daughter's birthday, so that's what we're remembering.)
Something changed on that day 10 years ago. Before that, we'd all heard of terrorism, and seen terrorist attacks in the news, but nothing so big. Amid all the confusion that followed – before it was even announced that anyone had any idea where the attacks had come from, the USA was attacking Afghanistan and Australia and other countries followed.
Even with that war waging, we started hearing that Iraq was building a stock pile of weapons of mass destruction. Although the UN inspectors who were sent to look for such weapons publicly stated over and over again they'd never seen any evidence of them, national leaders announced the invasion to destroy the weapons. We now know that the UN inspectors were right, and intellience services wrong, all along – there were no WMDs. Aside from that, another long-running war was begun.
For the past ten years, the word “terrorism” has come with just one visual image – planes flying into tall buildings. Buildings bombed, aircraft destroyed like the Lokerbie bombing, etc, nothing captured the public mind like the destruction involved in that one day of terrorist attacks.
And the acts had achieved their function – people were terrorised. Fear was shown in the way airline security was stepped up, the “be informed not alarmed” fridge magnets gave us numbers to dob in a terrorist, and we became used to hearing about high, medium or low alerts.
The other thing, a spectacular act of terrorism and ten years of wars in Arab countries have done, is to heighten awareness of the difference between “us” and “them”.
Suddenly Arab people are all seen as Moslem (even though they're not necessarily), and all Moslems are seen as radical religious terrorists (even though the vast majority of Moslems are “normal” people – not at all radical, and certainly not terrorists.)
Now, we have debates in the media about whether women should be allowed to wear Islamic headdress in public – when before the September 11 attacks, most Australians would have been interested in a “fair go” for everyone. We would have been outraged at the idea of discriminating against people on the grounds of religion.
Now, we have people branding refugees as “terrorists” because they come from Arab countries, even though the September 11 terrorists arrived in the USA through normal chanels. If you were running a terrorist organisation, you'd get your people into the country where they were going to attack in a way that didn't draw attention. Refugees get a lot more scrutiny than any normal migant or tourist.
Our world has changed, and not for the better. Fear has made us distrust our neighbours.
The answer to this: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)
We can't change history. We can't end wars. What we can do as individuals is choose how we will respond to others around us. Will we choose to be afraid just because someone is different to us? Or will we choose to see all other people as people loved by God, and love them as well.
Grace and Peace