From Dr Anne K Lan gslow Sir, Mary Kenny writes that "America, with all its wealth, was unable to defend itself against the idea of Islamic martyrdom, and nor will any society in the West unless it is also strong in faith and confidence. The West cannot defeat Islam if it is decadent and selfdoubting, if it is cringing and whinging, apologising for its past, its civilisation, its so-called 'cultural imperialism', which in many cases was the benign mission of education and technology to the primitive parts of the earth" (Sept 21).
Surely it is not and should not be the aim of the West to defeat Islam! This is a war against terrorism, not against a religion. And terrorists adhere to a number of different creeds, as Mary Kenny, no doubt, is well aware. It is a war, moreover, that the West cannot fight and win on its own. Placing our hope in the West alone is futile. We must hope — and work — for a new unity among all nations.
Thirdly, it has been precisely the West's strong "faith and confidence" in itself that have helped lead us into this crisis. Resentment of the West in particular of the United States, is rife, not only among Muslims. Over-confident faith in its economic, political and cultural systems has made the West unpopular in many parts of the world.
There is nothing benign, after all, in the exploitation of Third World labour, in self-interested support for comipt regimes, in the radical depletion of natural resources and the pollution of our shared environment to sustain the Western standard of living, and in the domineering cultural influence of Western brands (from McDonald's to Nike). The time is ripe for self-doubt and introspection — so that a genuine will to "see justice done" may emerge. Faith and confidence not in ourselves but in Christ is needed.
Yours faithfully, AK LANGSLOW, Manchester.
From Mrs Freda Brooks
Sir, Nick Thomas, pointing out an example of the primacy of image over substance, has his article next to the Counter Culture article by Leonie Caldecott and the picture of a five-year-old Catholic child being "comforted" by her mother as she is escorted to Holy Cross School in north Belfast. Some comfort, by the agonising look on the child's face! What do we have here? Something much more appalling than stubborn pigheadedness. Pope John Paul II, a prophet if ever one were needed, spoke of the "domestic" Church where the parents were the catechists, the "Our Father" being the way of love and peace. That is the substance. A "Good Friday" agreement? How can that ever be good? What shame! England would he well out of it.
Yours faithfully, FREDA BROOKS Lowestoft, Suffolk.
Need for interfaith declaration
From Dr Richard Lawson I remember once hearing the oxymoronic news headline "A Christian gunman on a rooftop in Beirut has killed nine people ." If a religious terrorist kills, whether in Northern Ireland or in the Middle East, non-religious commentators claim that the problem has nothing whatever to do with religion, but is based solely on other factors, such as class. This lets religious authorities off the hook.
Religion does have a bearing on communal violence. The violent mind needs to identify someone else as different. Religion, by identifying a certain religious group as "saved", "chosen", "blessed" or special, draws a line around that group, and by default, leaves all outside that group as "lost", "unsaved", or "infidel". Once the lines are drawn, if economic and political disadvantages exist for long enough, the soil is set for religious terrorism. The violent reaction can occur in the absence of religion, but religion can exacerbate the situation.
The theologians and leaders of the three great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, must face up to their responsibilities in the present world crisis, and act to diminish the ever increas ing divide between the faiths.
Throughout history, at times of theological crisis, there have been great councils which have met to make serious pronouncements. In the present climate, it would be helpful if religious leaders were to get together and answer this question: "Do the words "Yahweh", "God", and "Allah" refer to the same entity or to different entities?
The most appropriate location for them to meet would be Jerusalem. The overwhelming likelihood is that mainstream theologians will agree that this is the same entity. From the Declaration, some behavioural modification of believers may be expected to flow. Not a lot, of course; but it will help a little. It will give a lead.
Of course, some fundamentalists will reject the Declaration, and hold out for the notion that people of other religions are devilworshippers. They behave in this way in any case, and it is unlikely that the declaration will make their behaviour worse. At least we will know where they (and we) stand.
Yours faithfully, RICHARD LAWSON Congresbury BS49 5DX
Only Christian pacifism will do
From Mr Chris Goodchild
Sir, As a Catholic I take offence at your Editorial headline Sept 21), "This is not a holy war: but let us try at least to make it a just one". I call for all Christians to make their minds up as to whether they follow Aquinas or Jesus. Jesus would not settle for a lesser evil so why should we? The early Christian would be thrown to the lions, rather than take up arms, whilst your headline and argumentation in regard to this crisis imply that we join the lion's club. I feel most strongly that the purpose of life is
not to avoid pain and suffering but to make sense of it, and in regard to the present world situation we would do well to recognise those who have been on the receiving end and born the brunt of America's foreign policy, including all those innocent victims that died in the WTC some two weeks.
The Just War theory was the result of Augustine trying his best to accommodate Christianity to its new found privileged position in order to justify Roman imperialism. Aquinas merely brought this up to date.
I challenge you to print this letter and to play your part in inviting the pacifist teachings of Jesus to come alive in this time by requesting like-minded readers to write to me and join the non-violent resistance to the military action that threatens to destroy us all.
Yours faithfully, CHRIS GOODCHILD, 16 Warwick St, Norfolk NR2 3LD