Like most people, it is hard for me to grasp the scope of the acts that Anders Behring Breivik recently committed in Norway. Sometimes I just can’t fathom how someone can carry out acts of violence in the name of religion, no matter how insane/delusional they are. Without in any way discounting the scope of his acts, the grief of the families, or his guilt, there are lessons that can be learned from his, and other terrorists, actions.
From what has been released, it appears that Mr. Breivik was an extreme Christian fundamentalist that was part of a subtle undercurrent of like minded individuals who believe Europe is being taken over by Islam, and that the implementation of Sharia Law is imminent. Mr. Breivik, and other like minded individuals feel that they must act out in violence in order to “save” the “Christendom” of Europe from this invading Islamic force. Unfortunately, there is a similar undercurrent present in other world countries, especially the United States. Fortunately, for now most people confine their fears of “other religions” and “other people” to private conversations, or internet forums. However, I fear that this undercurrent is gaining momentum, and more problems may be on the horizon.
In Mr. Breivik’s manifesto he wrote of forced conversions to Christianity as well as forced deportations and even executions of those who refused convert. He seemed to hope that his horrendous acts would act as a catalyst to reform the Knights Templar, in order to start a new Crusade. While most Christians have rightfully distanced themselves from Mr. Breivik, and certainly denounced his actions. What needs to be addressed is the underlying attitudes and messages that fueled his delusions, and those of other terrorists.
Every day news organizations like Fox News, and politicians like Peter King and Newt Gingrich in America, and Marine Le Pen in France spread a message of fear, mistrust, and hatred towards non-Christian religions and immigrants. While I believe most of the vitriol spewed forth against non-Christian religions and immigrants is done for ratings and votes, this constant message of fear and mistrust does have consequences. While most of us have the ability to differentiate fear mongering tactics from reality, there are people who cannot. One example is right wing extremist Timothy McVeigh who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on April 19, 1995, which killed 168 people, and injured approximately 680 people. A very recent example is the actions of right wing extremist Jared Lee Loughner, who attacked American Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at a political gathering of constituents on January 8, 2011. His attack killed six people and wounded 13 people, including congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
The actions of Islamic terrorists are also examples of people who have been indoctrinated into fear, mistrust, and hate. While most American politicians and news pundits enjoy portraying Islam as a religion of terrorism, that is simply not the case. At its core, Islam, like other world religions, is a religion of peace, love, and acceptance. Islamic terrorists have been subjected to a distorted version of Islam as well as a healthy does of fear mongering directed towards the west. However, when true Muslims have tried to distance themselves from terrorism, the news media and politicians ignore their efforts. However, Christians have been granted much more leeway in distancing themselves from extremist groups like the Westboro Baptist Church, and now Breivik.
The fear of non-Christians and immigrants is just the newest “fear fad”, because prior to this fad people vilified various immigrant groups from Europe, communists, and homosexuals. In order for there to be true peace, we must stop this environment of fear and mistrust. Also, those who spread this message of fear, mistrust, and hate, whether they are a religious leader, a politician, or news pundit, must be held responsible for their actions because they are enabling the cycle of mistrust, hate, violence, and war to continue. Mistrust, hate, violence, and war only serve to breed more mistrust, hate, violence, and war. By continuing down our current path we will certainly be leaving a world filled with hate and violence for our children to inherit.
We must stop fearing and hating those who are different then ourselves. It does not matter what religion someone follows, what race someone is, where someone is from, or even what their sexual orientation is. We are all part of the human family, and we must all learn to work and live together, or there will never be peace in this world. We have all been created by the mystery that many people simply call “God” so in essence we are all brother and sisters, we must start acting like it.
Practical Tip: Work towards erasing negative attitudes towards others. If you have a thought of mistrust or hatred towards someone ask yourself, “why do I feel this way?”, then work to resolve why you feel that way in order to replace those feelings with respect and kindness. Also, if you come across someone spewing forth a message of hate and distrust do not be afraid to “call them out” in order to correct them. Also, truly educate yourself on other religions and people from other cultures. This is extremely useful because the most powerful tool (force) against ignorance is knowledge.
“Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it – always.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
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