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Saturday, Dec 10, 2005, 7:04 am

Why is it called violent extremism when “they” do it to us?

By Frida Berrigan

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Frida Berrigan
December 9, 2005

In an interview with the BBC yesterday, the host asked me how we as
Christians could walk to visit the prisoners at Guantanamo, many of whom
had been picked up on battlefields throughout the world and were commited to
killing Christians.

He asked about Norman Kember, one of the men kidnapped by violent extremists.
He said Norman had been shown on British TV with an islamic symbol and
was about to be killed. The BBC man said he was accused of being a spy.
How can you walk for people like that? Are you walking for those people?

First, I responded that we still don't know who is being held in Guantanamo.
So many have not been charged with any crime. We have no idea if they are
guilty of killing Christians. We have not given them access to the rule
of law. Instead, the US government has created a modern Heart of Darkness, an island
of impunity in the midst of this beautiful country where the rule of law does not apply.

I continued, asking how can the world's sole superpower and a nation
that purports to bring "democracy" to the world so flagrantly disregarding
such a central pillar of democracy--the rule of law.

When he pressed me on Norman Kember, I said we are with him and he
would be with us. We are walking with Anne Montgomery, a 79 year old
nun who sets a mean pace, bus has also lived and worked in Iraq and
Palestine with Christian Peacemaker Teams.

Why is it called violent extremism when "they" do it to us? and called
justice when we do it to them?

When we hold ourselves above the law, when we create a whole new standard
for ourselves and that standard is violence and torture and impunity--
even in the name of the war on terrorism--what do we expect in return?
The response to violent extremism will be violent extremism.
It will perpetuate itself, feed and grow and intensify ad infinitum and
without rest until everyone is dead or has blood on their hands.

Unless someone says "no". And we are walking to be that "no". We are walking
because violent extremism ENDS with us. We are citizens of the empire,
but we are Christians first. And as Christians we reject the privileges
of empire--the money, the security, the violence.

And we walk through this beautiful countryside, disarmed, to visit the prisoners,
and to pray and fast and await the intercession of the holy spirit.
And then the gates of the prison will be thrown wide and we can begin
to imagine a true security based on humanity instead of violent extremism.

Frida Berrigan is a senior program associate with the New America Foundation's Arms and Security Initiative and a member of the Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Free World.

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