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LETTER: Reacting, rather than thinking, creates cycle of violence

We are living in a precarious and unstable time on our planet, but we can take steps to help stop the cycle of violence, letter writer says
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Stop the Spiral of Violence: Thoughts to Ponder

“One person can stop a great injustice. One person can be a voice for truth. One person’s kindness can save a life.” ~ Nicky Gumbel

We are living in a precarious and unstable time on our planet. Wars erupt so quickly: Russia vs Ukraine, Hamas vs Israel, democracy vs authoritarian regimes, and then there are civil wars — countries such as Afghanistan, central African Republic, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria. All of these result in thousands of deaths or casualties, as well as mass displacement of people.

Approximately 6.6 million people (refugees) live in temporary camps — some for years, hoping a country will take them in. None of these people wanted war, death, violence, and loss of families, homes, lifestyles and work. So, what happened?

I can’t answer that, but I do know that violence spirals out of control. We get caught up in the endless news stories, images of destruction and we either immediately or slowly begin to take sides. This country is obviously in the right and that country is definitely wrong. And we base our feelings, thoughts, and conversations on what the news tells us. But do the newscasts tell us everything. Are the reports unbiased? Have we done any research into the history of the controversial parties? Have we done any critical thinking?

Probably not. Living our lives, caring for our families, working, taking time for recreation —  all of these things take over. We also become numbed by the constant disturbing news and we turn the news off. 

But some of us become obsessed by the news and when we take sides, our feelings for “our side” grows. We stop thinking and start reacting. This is the first step in the cycle of violence. We champion a certain side and refuse to listen to anything good about the other. We also blame the population of the warring country as a whole.

Then the spiral grows and acts of violence begin. Innocent people are victimized, terrorized just because they belong to a particular culture or are a member of that nation. The spiral grows to acts of violence against innocent people. 

We must stop this cycle in the bud. We must look at the fact that the citizens in the countries involved did not start this particular war — their governments did or the terrorists did. The majority of people didn’t want or perhaps didn’t even expect a war.

Let us think before we act: All lives are equal and sacred.

  • Bombing of schools, hospitals, civilian residences are brutal attacks against children, the ill, infirm and innocent bystanders and are unacceptable on both sides of any war.
  • Attacks against women who are defenceless are reprehensible.
  • Attacks in our own country against people who have cultural ties to warring countries are unacceptable.

This does not mean we cannot critique the actions of leaders in these wars, or stand up for peace. That also helps us stop the cycle of violence. Let us be compassionate and thinking people who want and WILL peace.

We recall the legacy in the field of conflict resolution of Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland and remember his vital words as we call for peace today: "All conflicts can be resolved. Wars and conflicts are not inevitable. They are caused by human beings. There are always interests that are furthered by war. Therefore, those who have power and influence can also stop them. Peace is a question of will.”

Sharon Willan