We lay down our weapons and hope others will do the same. But they will not.
In this chaotic, fast-changing world, one message is arising from the rubble, yet no one seems to hear its words. This message is teaching a lesson the optimistic world does not want to learn and thus is largely ignored today. The message, which cries out in the streets of Syria, echoes in the villages of Nigeria, calls out from Gaza, whispers from Ukraine and shouts from the mountains of Iraq, is this: The goal of peace is morally reprehensible.
When peace is the foremost goal of a human society, that society quickly chooses the road of moral tolerance, or rather moralistic complacency, thinking it will lead to a desired haven. In an ideal world, this would work. In a rose-colored society, everyone would agree to “get along” and allow one another to make moral choices without interference. On this Earth, however, it simply does not work. Those who embrace tolerance must turn a blind eye to blatant evil, because evil is rampant and does not bow to the name of peace. When peace is the goal, morality dies, and those who seek power for their own gain obtain it quickly.
If you maintain peace as the highest good and are faithful to your perspective, you can and will do nothing about the evil that is around you, for action would require confrontation, and confrontation is not peaceful. Thus, if you were to hear the screams of a woman being beaten by her abusive husband next door, you would do nothing. If you were to see a child being forcefully kidnapped, you would say nothing. When one group of people seeks to slaughter another, you change the channel on TV. Ironically, this moral passivity leads not to peace but to the governance of evil, which is anything but peaceful.
How is the world teaching us this lesson? When Syria cried for help, no one answered. As her children fell in the streets, no one responded. Response would have required war, and war is not peace. No, let us not fight. Rather, let us speak. The nations thus spoke and speak still today. Thousands of people now lie dead, but that is not the end. Out of the injustice of Syria, which the world ignored in the name of peace, has sprung a wave of bloodshed sweeping across Iraq, taking the lives of many more. This is not the end. How far will the guns and swords of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant go until the world says “enough”? Perhaps it is already too late to stop this rising evil.
If you found yourself face-to-face with an ISIL jihadist who desired to take your life, and you extended to him a hand of peace, what would become of your gesture? You would be an ignoble fool, for he would quickly sever both your hand and your head from your body, and you would be left in a pool of your own blood. Perhaps some would, in that event, call you a martyr of peace. I would not, because you refused to fight. Now, because of your worshiped olive branch, this man can step over your body and into your home to take the lives of your children as well. To die fighting for protection and justice is noble. To die because you refused to fight in the name of peace is cowardly. Cowardice lets the wicked do as he pleases.
The reality our world gives us is this: As long as evil endures, wars must be fought to preserve our lives, protect our families and defend our morality. The slightest movement of a moral conscience quickly recognizes this truth. However, when we trumpet peace over righteousness and tolerance over moral conviction, we lay down our weapons and hope others will do the same. They will not.
We must take to heart the quote oft attributed to Edmund Burke: The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for the good to do nothing. Speaking peace while failing to take moral action is doing nothing, and this is reprehensible.
Kaywin Eleanor is the director of AllforOne Ministries.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.