Abdul Salam (Servant of Peace): Two of the radicals and terrorists involved in the recent violence in Paris carried this name. And it was exactly on the same day that I invited a guest from Syria with the same name to the premises of my employer, EP-NUffic, with a message of hope. Earlier in the week I attended the conference #SparkIgnite in Amsterdam, staging the importance of investment in higher education in fragile states, confirmed by the presence of Queen Maxima. And given the cruelties that would unfold in Paris I realize with hindsight that the tight security surrounding her presence served a good purpose.
Earlier this year I attended a panel discussion preparing Turkey’s presidency of the G20 at the Finance for Development conference in Addis Ababa. The events of the past week only shows how well the priorities of inclusive growth and sustainable development were chosen. However, the terrorist attacks in Paris gave the gathering in Antalya a twist and convergence around security. Obama and Putin managed to find each other, at least physically in the lobby of a hotel. I cannot imagine they were sorting out their differences, nor talked about inclusive growth. Against the outright hatred demonstrated by Islamist Radicals there was a common answer to be formulated. Already President Hollande made his choice. His answer fell much in line with the answer President Bush formulated following the events of 11th of September resulting in a War on Terror with severe consequences for peace and stability in the world. The call is on other nations to join the war. History repeats itself, this time with Europe in the lead.
Je Suis Ali
Yesterday at one of the Dutch television talk shows it was Ali B. who expressed his doubts about the response of Hollande. “I have a sense that war rhetoric is exactly what these radicals are after.” He did an attempt to talk with a former radical about the religious nonsense that motivates extremism and about violence only being allowed by the prophet in response to violence. Hence, murdering innocent civilians could never have been Mohamed’s philosophy argued Ali who will soon start his show Je Suis Ali.
Hatred and love
In the meantime another response is formulated in the Notre Dame, where “Pray for Paris” is put in practice. A supposedly 13th century prayer attributed to Fransiscus of Assissi (according to Wikipedia drafted in 1912 in Paris) is prayed.
The last sentence in this prayer resonates with the victims of the attacks but ironically also echoes the inspiration and motives of those committing the atrocities, or at earlier times, may have inspired the crusaders in their strive to besiege Jerusalem. Hence, many conclude neither the State nor the Church has an appropriate answer to the type of extremism facing our societies today, resulting in society organizing its own rituals to deal with the grief and agony.
Trying to reflect on the situation I must refrain from judging any of the above responses. Without my education and the experience of living in Hindu, Muslim and Orthodox societies I would not have developed the attitude to question my own prejudices, whether it concerns relationships at work or in society. Having been raised in a conservative family I was very much aware of the enemy outside and much less aware of the enemy residing within. Loving my enemy may as well mean learning to love my self, despite shortcomings both in understanding and action.
By chance I was given the opportunity for my personal response, unaware of the tragedy that would unfold the same day, in bringing a Syrian scholar in contact with some Dutch knowledge institutions. I belief this Abdul Salam was a real servant of peace in soliciting support for agricultural education inside Syria. Knowing the agricultural research system, of which he is a member, I recognized his genuine intention to further agricultural education and research and support farmers as a means to support early recovery. For him both the Assad regime and IS do not provide the right ecology, causing him to opt for operating from Turkey, from where he is managing the program inside ‘liberated areas’ in Syria. Donors like GIZ and DFID and also NGOs like SPARK have already joined hands with him. Hence the financial support may not be the most pressing issue. Nevertheless, the moral support is. We exchanged a star that is already hanging in his house in Turkey and at my house in The Netherlands as a symbol of connectivity between both our faiths and our societies. It would be a great signal if the Dutch 3D approach of Defense, Diplomacy and Development could regain momentum as war without investment in peace dividend will not provide a solution. It will only change the players.
My name is Reinier van Hoffen.
Click here for a summary.
Also find the text of a lecture Dr. Achterhuis held at the 2012 Bilderberg conference.