“As people of faith and disciples of the nonviolent Jesus, we must be willing, even now in this darkest moment, to commit ourselves and urge our sisters and brothers to resist the impulse to vengeance. We must resist the urge to demonize and dehumanize any ethnic group as ‘enemy’. We must find the courage to break the spiral of violence that so many in our nation, we fear, will be quick to embrace.” ~from Pax Christi USA’s statement immediately after the events of 9/11, issued September 12, 2001
This statement, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, repeats a reminder from the first statement we issued after September 11, 2001 – that we are first and foremost people of faith and disciples of the nonviolent Jesus. Our response then, our response now, our response always begins with our understanding of the inherent value and dignity of our shared humanity, given full expression in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
Twenty years ago, just after 9/11 and just before October 7 when U.S. bombs began to fall on Afghanistan, a phrase was circulating across the United States: “Our grief is not a cry for war.” People mourned the victims of the 9/11 attack and marched by the millions in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and other cities across the globe against any movement toward war.
The grief of 9/11 has not been assuaged or erased or vindicated by twenty years of war, an array of military strategies, or the unbounded increase in military spending. We were not silent twenty years ago and we will not be silent today: Our faith impels us in the face of death and violence to respond with justice and compassion. It illuminates the moment and points out the urgent need for a paradigm shift toward nonviolence in our country and the world.
The tragedy that has unfolded in Afghanistan during 20 years of military occupation and during the recent U.S. withdrawal is and has always been in direct opposition to the Jesus who calls us to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).
The specter of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the failure of military solutions there and elsewhere should be all that is needed to push the “pause” button on any future rush to solve problems through military means. Afghanistan is striking evidence of the impracticality of violence, even when it is fully funded and supported by a twenty year commitment. It is time for a major restructuring of the U.S. budget away from military spending and to programs and practices that address the root causes of insecurity and conflict and promote nonviolent alternatives to war.
While U.S. political leaders chose to go one way twenty years ago, we chose to go another, affirming the solidarity embedded in the human heart. This solidarity was manifested in spontaneous, profound acts of courage, selflessness, and compassion that extend from the empathy with victims and survivors of 9/11 through the welcoming of Afghan refugees today. Our grief today for the millions of Afghans traumatized, displaced, living under threat, and anxious for their futures must be met by a transformative solidarity that heals all of us and orients us on a more hopeful path toward a future when proven-effective nonviolent strategies in response to actual or threatened violence become the default U.S. approach.
President Biden’s promise to “hunt down” terrorists and “make them pay” is incompatible with the basic tenets of our Catholic faith. We have witnessed firsthand how the manipulation of grief and anger suits the business interests of those who invest in war and conflict. We have seen where vengeance and retaliation lead and who is sacrificed — hundreds of thousands of Afghans and Iraqis; those who were sent to fight; the vulnerable and impoverished in the U.S. whose needs are dismissed in favor of financing war. Human dignity rejects that path and seeks out creative, life-giving paths to heal our grief and attain justice.
Let us begin to pursue nonviolent ways to both prevent and respond to violence based on our common humanity and a shared hope for the future, already threatened by white nationalism, exponential military expenditures, climate disaster, global inequity, forced migration, current and future pandemics, the collapse of democracies, and nuclear war.
We must find another way, as a global community, to address conflict and violence. We must find the courage to put into practice Gospel nonviolence as a way of life, but also as one of the most practical means to end this spiral of violence. Our collective vision and commitment to nonviolence and just peace will bring life and joy to communities around the world.
Our statement on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 ended with the hope that we all might “gather one decade from now—not amidst the ruins of all that has been torn down—but in the midst of that new world of peace and security for all which we have built up together.” This work is still to be done. It is work to which we have been committed for nearly 50 years. That commitment will not waver.
In the gospel reading from Luke for this Saturday, the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, Jesus asks those who follow him, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I command?”
May we do respond to that command and do everything in our power now to protect one another, welcome refugees, educate ourselves, unmask those who benefit from oppression and violence, and challenge U.S. militarism as well as economic and cultural imperialism across the globe. May we commit ourselves to nonviolence, knowing that war is always a defeat for humanity, and for our common home.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The choice is no longer between violence or nonviolence, but nonviolence or nonexistence.” Either we continue a course of action based on military domination that threatens to lead the world deeper into war, or we begin to imagine a new vision of global justice and peace, and forge a more hopeful path into a common future based on nonviolence.
For a sampling of the statements we have made over the past twenty years on 9/11, its aftermath, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the U.S.-led global war on terror, click on the links below.
- 9/11/11 – Statement on the Tenth Anniversary of 9-11
- 3/1/09 – “It is time to end the trail of resentment and hatred,” statement on the war in Afghanistan
- 2/1/06 – On the use of torture as a means of national security in the U.S. war on terror
- 10/9/01 – Statement on the Bombing of Afghanistan
- 9/26/01 – On the aftermath of September 11th
- 9/12/01 – On September 11th
Click here to find more resources on the 9/11 anniversary and the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.