Margaret Clark, Canberra Regional Meeting
Sometimes when insomnia strikes I write. Very early this morning I was working on the Family Page for the Ninth Month Australian Friend when a casual glance at the internet brought shattering news from Norway and a change of topics.
My youngest was in primary school when the twin towers fell in New York City. I remember taking her to school late that morning and writing ‘bombing in USA’ on the note which explained the reason for her tardiness.
Her school sent home letters that same afternoon asking parents to keep the children away from the news for a few days. They warned that the younger children would not necessarily recognise the fi lm footage, and so believe that new attacks were taking place.
The oldest was in the early years of high school. Over the days that followed most teachers set aside time in class to talk about what had happened. It was all fairly civilised, except for the classmates who told my son (whose pride in his US heritage is not hidden) that America deserved to be bombed because it was evil.
London, Madrid and, of course, Bali all followed in due course. And now, the Norwegians have their own 9-11 experience which will forevermore mark their historical memory.
There are no sensible reasons why these things happen, so I don’t even try to explain the unexplainable. It is the imprint of these events on young minds, resulting in a sustained sense of either hopelessness or fear, which concerns me the most.
In 1812 William Allen said, ‘On occasions of public calamity Friends’ post must be the care of the poor and the relief of distress’ (BYM Faith and Practice 24.29). Similarly, the 1920 British All Friends Conference reminded Friends that ‘You cannot foster harmony by the apparatus of discord, nor cherish goodwill by the equipment of hate. But it is by harmony and goodwill that human security can be obtained’. (BYM Faith and Practice 24.40)
I find both statements a comfort as they give me a sense of direction. It may be true that ‘an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind’. However, social paralysis resulting from fear or hopelessness is not going to bring greater light into the world either.
If we can show each other and our youth that senseless acts of violence do not sway Friends from our belief that God dwells within the heart of each person, and if we continue to demonstrate such belief under extreme conditions, we will give hope and strength to another generation.