The blade the bullet and the bomb know no morality, they have one purpose only, to kill and injure. Those who wield these weapons of destruction have choices; they are moral beings who have chosen the way of violence. This choice is informed by their beliefs and their beliefs informed by their chosen cause or ideology; or both.

If choosing the way of violence is based upon an extreme ideology then they have adopted an uncompromising  view of the world and how it should be ordered which requires them, and their co-believers, to spare nothing or no one in pursuit of their ultimate aims; barbarity is unleashed, violence spirals and any semblance of humanity abandoned; they appropriate for themselves the appearance of an irresistible force. However, as in the paradoxical proposition “What will happen if an irresistible force meets and immovable object?” nothing in nature is absolutely irresistible and nothing is absolutely immovable. In the gritty realities of power struggles action and reaction happen by degrees and each mirrors the worst aspects of the other and thus violence breeds violence “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.” (From the Christian Gospel)

Am I describing Daesh? I could also be describing Cromwell’s Model Army in the England of 1640s or Fascist regimes in Europe in the 1930s and 40s. All believed themselves invincible all were ultimately vanquished. Their legacy was and is more violence. Violence breeds violence.

(Quote)”The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that”. Martin Luther King Junior

Plato said, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

Violence breeds violence and its siblings are: vengeance, reprisal and retaliation. Governments, as well as individuals, adopt these siblings and unleash them at will.  To break the spiral of violence we must contend with these forces of vengeance and violence at their root cause.

All wars end. Either through attrition, intervention, diplomacy or capitulation conflicts cease. But the end of conflict is rarely the beginning of a sustainable peace; too often the end of fighting is merely the impression of peace when in reality it is an armed truce vacillating between possible futures.

For years, America the UK and their allies have appropriated to themselves the mantle of a global, interventionist morality. This policy has been seen by many as either little too late or at worst disastrous for all concerned. For the first time in modern history the consequence of this deeply flawed morality has brought the victims of intervention, in seemingly overwhelming numbers, onto their shores and into their streets. Traumatised, at times half dead, physically and psychologically scarred, starving and despairing they are as much the West’s casualties as any of our armed forces killed or injured in recent wars. Violence breeds violence.

From the violence suffered by traumatised refugees coming to our shores, a new violent reaction is being embodied in the resurgence of reactionary, populist political forces in America, Europe and elsewhere. The populist slogans they scream and chant are a repudiation of the so called liberal, democratic values which have dominated international discourse since 1989. These new forces are indifferent or opposed to any assertion of international morality. They will use violence (rhetorically and actual) to secure their nation’s borders, engender a patriotic siege mentality and practice isolationism from global intervention; rather than try and do intervention better they prefer not to do it at all.

In the Levant, Western influence has waned and is seen as fatally flawed, other regional powers have filled the vacuum but they have historical and ideological agendas which are inimical to the West.

The West, meanwhile, is verging on economic bankruptcy; the UN is also deprived of funds and in thrall to the Security Council, the new American regime is inexperienced and lacks credibility and Europe is fragmenting as a political project. Western intervention seems to be reduced to targeted military strikes in the Levant and anxiety about trade deals elsewhere. The West seems gripped by a moral inertia. So from where will arise new energy for global conciliation and rapprochement come? Russia, China, Turkey, India? Are we in a diplomatic winter?

(Quote from Quran)  “There is no good in most of their secret talks save (except) (in) him who orders Sadaqah (charity in Allah’s Cause), or Maa‘roof (Islamic Monotheism and all the good and righteous deeds which Allah has ordained), or conciliation between mankind; and he who does this, seeking the good Pleasure of Allah, We shall give him a great reward” (Quran, Surah An-Nisaa, 114)

If the Great Reward goes to the conciliators of this world (“Blessed are the Peace makers” Quote from Christian scriptures) then we need an uprising of peacemakers and an army of reconcilers. (The Aramea Foundation, NCF, IoC?). We need a coalition of the willing who will work tirelessly and sacrificially for Peace; demanding a renewal of ethically based foreign policies, a renewal of internationalism, reaching out to enemies and bringing light to the darkest places.

As a person of faith I know faith’s shortcomings but I also know its power to inspire and transform lives and situations and to give vision and hope to humanity in its days of darkness:  “To turn spears into pruning hooks and where people will study war no more” (Quote from Jewish Scriptures).

Faith must play a significant role in post conflict Syria and Iraq, Syria and Iraq will also need all the goodwill that can be mustered and a Marshall type plan of economic and civic reconstruction unprecedented in modern times. This is the cost of the West’s repentance and the East’s intransigence and the Middle East’s incoherence.

Within any plans for the possible futures in the war torn areas of the Levant, their  must be a plan for  the future of Jerusalem, that city set on a hill which is the rallying point for so much human longing for God.

May we find new hope, new vision and new determination to shape a future where it is not the dead who see an end to war, but the living.

 

Fr Larry Wright

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The Next Century Foundation at the United Nations – Intervention on Discrimination and Intolerance against Women

The Next Century Foundation took part in the 36th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. During the General Debate on Item 9 “Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance” the NCF delivered an oral intervention on the issue of gender discrimination in the Arab States urging them to take the necessary steps in order to improve women’s conditions, following the recent example of Bahrain.

Tunisia’s new counter terror-law halts Tunisia’s democratisation

Prime Minister Habib Essid

In the wake of a spate of deadly terrorist attacks in Tunisia this year, the democratically-elected Tunisian Parliament has adopted a new anti-terror law aiming to counter any future threats from Islamist militants and extremists. The introduction of this law is harsh and a step back in Tunisia’s ongoing journey to democratisation. However, the Prime Minister, Habib Essid, maintains that the law is a necessary step forward in order to tackle the rise of terrorist activity in Tunisia.

The legislation comes after the attack that claimed the lives of 38 tourists, 30 of whom were British, on June 26th on a beach resort in Sousse, a heavily tourist populated region in Tunisia. The terrorist organisation ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack, and isn’t their first attack in Tunisia. Back in March, ISIS took responsibility for an attack on the Bardo Museum in the capital of Tunis, leaving 21 tourists dead. These two attacks have had a significant effect on Tunisia’s tourism sector, which provides roughly 400,000 jobs to Tunisians and accounts for 14.5% of Tunisia’s GDP.

The legislation re-introduces the death penalty for those convicted of terrorism charges and jail sentences for those whom express support for terrorism. The bill also provides an increase in phone tapping powers for investigators and authorities. Suspects of terror offences can also be detained for up to 15 days without access to a lawyer; which inevitably minimizes their lawyers’ ability to put forward an effective defence. This comprehensive increase in power, bestowed to authorities, has been heavily criticized among sectors of Tunisian society. The bill has been debated in parliament for many years, but was only put forward following the recent attacks. The legislation was rushed to parliament too quickly to have a proper debate with adequate scrutiny. After just three days of debate, the bill passed with 174 votes (at least 109 votes were needed to pass it) and only ten abstentions. With the bill now in law, it will act as Tunisia’s new counter-terrorism strategy.

Tunisia, a rare success story of the Arab Spring, has been in a peaceful transition to democracy ever since the overthrow of President Ben Ali, however, many NGOs and advocacy groups have condemned the legislation, arguing instead that it threatens the already fragile democratic structure of Tunisia. Many concerns have been raised regarding the return of capital punishment after a lengthy moratorium in Tunisia, as well as the undermining of civil liberties due to the increased power in citizen phone tapping. While Mohamed Ennaceur, the President of the Assembly, maintained that the newly adopted law is a historic moment for Tunisia and is a reassurance for citizens and tourists in Tunisia. What is clear about this legislation is that it is sacrificing Tunisia’s democracy for its safety and security.

Despite Tunisia’s successful uprising, the Tunisian army and security forces, have had to tackle with the rise of Islamist militancy. Tunisia is concerned about the vast security vacuum that has been left to grow in Libya due to the ongoing civil war between two rival governments, which has given groups such as ISIS an opening to spread chaos in Libya. More than 7,000 Tunisians have left their country to fight for ISIS in Syria, more than any other country in the world, which poses a significant security challenge for the Tunisian authorities. Along with the new law, Prime Minister Essid has proposed an unrealistic plan to build a sand barrier along the Libyan border, as a strategy to counter a potential Islamic State spill over.

Tunisia is in a critical phase of democratic reconstruction and this regressive law will certainly derail Tunisia’s long path to democratisation. The law no longer safeguards the rights of defendants and the significant increase in power among authorities and security services is likely to reverse Tunis’ effort to rid the country of authoritarianism. It is clear that the elected leadership in Tunisia has forsaken their democratic mandate and opted for short-sighted authoritative power over long-term state-building. It is worth noting however that prior to the new law, there wasn’t a significant effort or measures in place to address extremism in Tunisia. Nonetheless, the perennial question remains. Is it necessary to curtail democracy for security measures in order to fight extremism?