Magazine article The Christian Century

Cooling on America's War. (the View from Europe)

Magazine article The Christian Century

Cooling on America's War. (the View from Europe)

Article excerpt

IN THE HOURS after the attacks on New York and Washington, many European Christians found themselves feeling a solidarity with Americans that some would not have thought possible. Thousands, perhaps millions, of Europeans bore witness to their grief and outrage about the attacks in mass gatherings in cities and villages across the continent. I personally received almost a thousand e-mails from people in almost every country in Europe expressing their sympathy and promising their prayers.

As church members and leaders alike sought out individual Americans to whom they could express their feelings, church assemblies and councils passed resolutions of support and concern. The Synodal Council of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren even voted to give $7,000--a generous share of its annual undesignated income--as a contribution to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) disaster relief work in New York and Washington. As far as most Europeans were concerned, the fight against terrorism was their concern too.

European solidarity with the U.S. continued almost unabated from September 11 to the beginning of the bombing of Afghanistan on October 7. That's when support for the U.S. leadership in the struggle against terrorism began to dissolve. At first European discontent was muted, even in the churches. Now, except at 10 Downing Street and in the Kremlin, European patience with the Bush administration's policy is wearing thin. The General Synod of the Spanish Evangelical Church and the Church and Nation Committee of the Church of Scotland have both condemned the bombing in Afghanistan, and I expect many more churches will follow them.

The most often expressed concern about the U.S. war on terrorism is that it will only provoke more terrorism. Even so-called precision bombing is only as accurate as the intelligence that guides it. To be sure, the bombs are aimed at terrorist camps and munitions depots; unfortunately, too many seem to land on Red Cross supply centers and families of innocent civilians. However much the U.S. apologizes for each miss, a thousand more Afghans and a million more Muslims worldwide will be further radicalized.

If Osama bin Laden had 1,000 followers worldwide on September 10, said one European church leader in a recent private e-mail, today he has at least that many sympathizers among the immigrant population in every middle- and large-sized European city. What European Christians are desperately worried about is that in each European city even a few Bin Laden sympathizers will become al-Qaeda terrorists. Who can say that this concern is not realistic?

European Christians also point out that bin Laden and his followers are free to escalate their violence without regard for anyone's opinion but their own. If bin Laden is willing to kill 50,000 people in an attack on the World Trade Center (that's the number of potential victims in the attack on the twin towers), there is no reason to think he would stop at killing a hundred thousand or even a million. If an American city were blown up, say, by one of the five nuclear warheads the Russians report are missing from their nuclear arsenal, or even by a smaller bomb reassembled from the components of one of those warheads, would President Bush be willing to refrain from dropping a nuclear bomb on a suspect Muslim country? Given domestic political pressures, could he forgo dropping a bomb even if he realized that a nuclear exchange would set off the equivalent of a world war between the U.S. and the Muslim world?

European Christians say they understand that Osama bin Laden is already as radicalized and as motivated to do harm to the U. …

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