If there is any doubt that the leaders of the World Council of Churches have learned nothing from the last ten years, General Secretary Olav Tveit dispels it in a statement he has made on the anniversary of 9/11. After starting out with a call to prayer for those effected by the events of that terrible day, he continues:
Terrorism in all its forms – whether committed by individuals, groups or states – is to be condemned. But one may reasonably ask how best to respond. Perpetrators should be brought to justice and security measures devised to prevent the repetition of such trauma. Many of us remain convinced that nonviolence can be the most helpful long-term response to violence and the most effective means toward a lasting peace based on justice.
“Perpetrators should be brought to justice.” And how exactly is the victimized nation supposed to do that? Should the NYPD have been dispatched to Tora Bora with warrants for the arrest of al-Qaeda leadership? Should we have perp-walked the leadership of the Taliban through Kabul (on their way to Riker’s Island) and charged them with being accessories after the fact? Ten years on, and Tveit still doesn’t understand that terrorism is not about crime, it is about asymmetrical warfare, and must be dealt with as such.
As for nonviolence, if he was talking about a Christian witness to the ethics of the Kingdom in the face of sin I would agree whole-heartedly. As it is, he’s talking about national policies. Last time I checked, the kingdoms of this world were charged with protecting their citizens from evil-doers, if necessary through the application of the sword (Romans 13:1-7). If Tveit believes that participation in such sword-wielding is contrary to Kingdom ethics, he may abstain. For him to advocate that worldly governments act as though the Kingdom of God has come in its fullness is a category error that, if followed by those governments, would result in a much more dangerous and ultimately more violent world.
We in the ecumenical movement have dedicated ourselves to dialogue among people of different faiths, and in this context especially to dialogue among Christians, Jews and Muslims. There is great power and importance in religion, yet on this anniversary we must admit that belief can be twisted and perverted to fuel hatred, terror and war. The World Council of Churches is preparing for its 10th Assembly in 2013 and has adopted an assembly theme in the form of a prayer: “God of life, lead us to justice and peace.” Life, justice and peace are high ideals in every religion deserving of the name, and we appeal to religious leaders and people of goodwill to join us in building strong relationships based on human dignity and mutual respect.
This is commendable, certainly (though it also does not take into account that Muslims have differing definitions of “justice” and “peace” from Christians and Jews). It also has nothing to do with combatting Islamic extremism, which is an effort that, religiously speaking, has got to be undertaken by Muslims alone, though we can offer our prayers and moral support for their efforts.
In October 2001, the World Council of Churches commissioned an ecumenical “Living Letters” team to visit the United States and help to comfort its grieving people. At the conclusion of this visit, the team spoke in a pastoral letter of building “a culture of peace”. On this anniversary we re-dedicate ourselves to dialogue and cooperation in search of Just Peace. Establishing peace is the surest path to true victory over those who on 11 September, 2001 sought to inaugurate an era of division and death. Together, let us proclaim that their aims have been rejected.
Well, of course their aims have been rejected, but let’s be clear what those aims are. They do not seek “division and death” for their own sake, but in the service of a religious ideology that requires them to seek the imposition of an Islamic regime on the entire world. They particularly oppose with every fiber of their being the very existence of what is usually called “Western civilization” as it is defined by its political, economic, moral, and social arrangements. To speak of “rejecting their aims” without at the same time resolving to use whatever necessary and moral means to defeat them is to demonstrate the fundamental lack of seriousness with which the WCC takes the threat.