to Visalia Friends Meeting Home Page)
on Our Response to Terrorism
[This letter of
introduction was sent along with the queries to all churches and other
worship groups (across religious and denominational lines) in Visalia
and nearby communities. We were heartened to receive direct and indirect
feedback that these queries have been used as the basis of discussion
in a number of the groups that were contacted.]
of the Visalia Friends Meeting (Quakers) send our greetings to you and
your religious community because we believe we share a spiritual bond
that transcends religious labels. We as a nation have been confronted
with a crisis that is as much spiritual as political. If religious teachings
are to be more than a collection of pious platitudes they must apply
when the terror is real and emotions run high. At times like these we
need to draw together with our neighbors, to pause and reflect on our
core values, and to strive for alignment between our beliefs and our
have met together in worship to reflect on these horrific acts and our
individual and national responses to them. Out of that meeting has emerged
a list of queries, a traditional Quaker form of sharing. It is the tradition
of the Religious Society of Friends not to preach, but rather to call
each other to look within and encounter for ourselves God who dwells
within. Queries are a means to that end. The issues confronted here
are so central to our life as a nation that it was felt that these queries
should be shared with the wider community of faith as well. We offer
them to you not in the spirit of argument or debate, but as a stimulus
for reflection and dialogue. We hope that through them your faith community
will join with us in dialogue and a mutual deepening of our respective
faiths. We welcome your response.
in the Light,
Religious Society of Friends
Q: How can we as a nation respond to violence and oppression without
becoming violent and oppressive?
Q: How can we learn
to live at peace with the world when we are, and always will be, vulnerable
Q: Do I really
believe we should love our enemies and respond to evil with good? Do
these teachings apply even when the injury is great? Do they apply now?
Do they apply even if the violence escalates?
Q: Am I careful
to make clear distinctions in my thinking and my speech to avoid needless
escalation of the violence? Do I distinguish between crimes by individuals
and acts of war by nations? Do I distinguish between the inhabitants
of a country and the government that rules over them and possibly oppresses
Q: When I consider
the costs of war, do I take into consideration the human cost on both
sides of the conflict, or only the cost of American lives? Do I include
among the costs the loss of life and livelihood due to the resultant
hunger, deprivation, disease, and economic destruction as well as the
direct loss of life in combat?
Q: To what extent
is support of my country right and proper? Are there limits to that
support? Do I acknowledge that my country, as any country, is a human
institution capable of using its power for either good or evil? Do I
expect my country to respect the rights of other nations and to work
for world peace in cooperation with the United Nations, the World Court,
and other institutions promoting international law?
Q: Am I willing
to refrain from retribution to break the cycle of violence, where each
new incident becomes the justification for an act of revenge?
Q: Have I sought
to understand the roots of fear and hatred of the United States expressed
in many parts of the world? Do I try to see my country and its actions
through the eyes of those who are most critical of us? Where those criticisms
may be valid, am I willing to commit myself to work for change?
Q: When someone
mentions "terrorists" do I automatically think of a particular
ethnic or religious group? Do I allow the actions of extremists to color
my attitude toward entire ethnic or religious groups? How can I show
compassion for people from other backgrounds living in my community
who are themselves terrorized by the backlash to recent events?