Aug 2006 - A year on: how do we end the violence?

01 June 2013

IT doesn’t seem like a year since four suicide bombers attacked London’s transport system, murdering 52 people and injuring more than 770.

Memory is a strange thing: on one hand we all want to forget the brutal and ugly side of life, to shut it away in the back of our minds. In the long term excessive grief can be destructive - even if it is understandable. It can make us depressed, hostile and bitter.

But there are also ugly things we need to remember: and one of them is the date of 7 July 2005.

We need to remember it because, without becoming paranoid or overcautious, we should be aware of possible danger signals more than ever before: unattended bags on platforms, rucksacks left on station benches or people behaving in a suspicious or agitated way. We need to be aware, rather than careless.

We should remember it because of the way it harmed, not just the dead, but their families. To many of us, 7 July can become a memory - but to the friends and family of the slaughtered, it will never be history. They will live with it every day - mothers without sons, children without mothers, brothers without sisters.

Equally we need to remember it when we think of other conflicts in the world: and it should make us very reluctant to turn to the use of force to solve our problems.

I am not a pacifist: I believe that sometimes force is necessary to combat mindless evil: sometimes it is impossible to be rational because the enemy is not logical. You can't reason with a maniac or a fanatic of any hue - Muslim, fascist or Christian, it makes no difference.

But equally it should make us reluctant to take up arms. It must be a last resort, because the only thing violence breeds - is violence. I look at the Middle East and I almost despair.

One act of violence by a small group of Palestinians - killing two Israeli soldiers and kidnapping another - had, within days, plunged a whole region into crisis. As I write this, Israeli planes are bombing the capital city of their neighbour,Lebanon. They are murdering innocent citizens - because someone else murdered some of their armed forces.

There is no logic or point to this awful circle of violence - and mutual killing will never provide a solution. The only way that problems are overcome in the end is by communication, by contact, by exchange of ideas and by understanding. To forgive evil deeds without reservation is irresponsible - but equally revenge is not a political philosophy: it is a human failing.

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