Óscar Arias Sánchez, Costa Rica

October 11, 2001

I know that many of the people of the United States believe in working for peace, but have difficult questions in their hearts today. How do we stop terrorism? How can we prevent another attack from happening? How will we know when we are safe again? How do we achieve justice for the horrible thing that was done to us?

I’m afraid that there are no easy answers to these questions. The government, and the people, of the United States are in an extremely delicate position at this time. They are struggling to find a response that will stop the evil of terrorism, but without repeating that same evil: without killing even more innocents. The greatest danger I see is this: that people will begin to welcome violence into their hearts, and in this way diminish their own souls. While I believe that actions such as those carried out by terrorists on September 11 must be responded to, I believe it is vital that Americans not allow themselves to be overtaken with a thirst for revenge.

Now that war is upon us, I feel it is imperative that the present conflict not be inflamed and extended into a “clash of civilizations,” nor that it be painted as a jihad or a crusade–two concepts that have been sorely abused over the course of history. There is truly nothing more disturbing than killing in the name of God and religion. Today I send my plea to those in the Muslim world, in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, in Bangladesh and Iran, and in all places where the name of Allah is worshipped, to reject the false call to holy war against the West that is being put out by extremist leaders. At the same time, I call upon the leaders and the people of the West, in societies based upon the Judeo-Christian tradition, to recall that Christianity provides no basis for an assumption of superiority and dominance, quite the contrary. The holy writings of the Torah, the Bible, and the Koran have been twisted so often that it has become difficult for ordinary, good, and compassionate people of all faiths to discern the principles that are primary in all the holy books: peace and justice, fair treatment of our neighbors, and the primacy of love as the supreme value.

Whether or not we subscribe to any religion, and whichever faith has shaped the culture that we live in, let us all remember the importance of working together as a human race for the survival of our planet, and for its lasting peace.