Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


On tolerance and terrorism

  • 16 November 2015

For many of us on getting up on Saturday, hearing the news of the attacks in Paris caused again a note of fear or frustration. Be it in Iraq or London or Bali, or the steps of an office in Parramatta, or a plane blown up mid-air, such violence has too often become part of life. 

The forces of violent intolerance appear to be on the rise in many parts of the world. The Middle East, parts of Africa, and the Ukraine feature almost daily in the news. We struggle too, with the appropriate response to such violence, balancing security with civil rights, taking the fight to its bases, while addressing the causes of such violence.

In many of these conflicts religious difference constitutes an important element in the conflict. Some commentators point to religion as the cause of many of humankind's wars. In a sense they are correct, as they would be also if they ascribed war to humankind's quest for liberty, equality, justice, or even love. It is a paradox of the human condition that that which is noblest in the human often gives way to violence and intolerance.

This of course does not negate the value of justice or liberty, any more than it does of religion. Christians look to the reality of sin and its impact on our humanity as the explanation for this paradox.

Naturally enough our media is full of commentary and reactions to the events in Paris. How are we supposed to react to such an attack? I was struck by a post of a student on Facebook. Cormac wrote:

'Today is a day where we need to refrain from accusing Islam and Muslim people in general for being people of hatred, terror and violence, because they most definitely are not.

'Today is a day where need to show to the disgusting human beings who committed these atrocious acts, and who do not represent the values of Islam and the Muslim community in any way, shape or form, that we will not allow for hatred, terror and violence to breed further hatred, terror and violence.

'Today is a day where need to showcase our solidarity as a society and as a people.

'So please, I beg of you, do not point the finger at Islam, point the finger at the evil people who were truly behind these attacks. The evil people whose only true faith is in the power of terror and violence.