The Right Rev. George Carey
Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Worldwide AnglicanCommunion
In days to come we shall all be asked: "What were you doing when thetwin towers of the World Trade Center crashed to the ground?" In my caseI was sitting in my study talking to John Peterson, secretary general ofthe (Anglican) Communion, when (my wife) Eileen walked in and said witha stunned air: "A plane has just crashed into the World Trade Center!"
Even now it is very difficult to get one's mind around the events ofthat day. What sort of face was it we saw that day? Perhaps there wereseveral, including the hideous face of terrorism using Islam to try tocower a great nation ... We thank God that America was not cowed by suchevil. Another face we saw was altogether gentler and heroic, the face ofcompassion rescuing many from a tragic end. We saw sorrow and grief, butalso a determination that evil should not triumph.
As I write, the allied forces are seeking to pry Osama Bin Ladenfrom his hiding place in Afghanistan. While we may have varying viewsabout the means it is clear that those guilty must be held to account.The world is not safe until such perpetrators are brought to justice.
One simply cannot imagine the mentality of men who will take overplanes and use them as guided missiles to destroy. But neither can Iunderstand a theology which assumes that such evil deeds grant oneaccess to paradise. It is vital that Muslim leaders continue to addressthis distortion of Islamic theology as a matter of urgency.
But there is another issue that seems to be to be lost in thepresent debate. Put simply it is this: Our increasingly secular,consumer driven societies often find it hard to understand people whoare quite prepared to die for their beliefs. We are increasinglycocooned in a culture of comfort -- where all danger and risk are keptat arms length.
Most Christians, of course, will have some insight of the notion ofthe sacrificial life although nothing in our faith leads us to killothers for religious ends. Our faith calls us to live and die for Christhimself, whose ways are justice and peace. And isn't there a challengehere for us all? As I write this letter I have just heard that 18 fellowAnglicans of the Church of Pakistan were murdered by extremists whilstat worship! Our hearts go out to their families as we commend those whohave died and their families to the loving arms of Almighty God. Itbrings home to us all the cost for so many fellow Christians infollowing Christ today. For those of us living in more secure lands weare challenged to work out for ourselves the cost of following our Lord.
Early last century, Bishop Frank Weston of Zanzibar, who had beenpreaching the University sermon at Cambridge University challengingstudents to give up their lives to become missionaries in Africa, wasgreeted by a student who said: `I couldn't possibly live in Africa!'Weston thundered: `I did not ask you to live there -- I asked you to beprepared to die there!' And dying for Christ was often the reality ofthose missionaries of that period. Do we not need to consider where theelement of sacrifice has gone in modern Christianity? If ourdiscipleship does not take the form of direct suffering for Christ,perhaps we have to work out for ourselves those forms of obedience thatare sacrificial and costly that might lead to the benefit of the Churchand humanity.
To return to the present situation: While nothing justifies theawful events of Sept. 11, the Western world must wake up to the factthat terrorism feeds on such realities as the gross and obsceneinequalities between West and East; the deep despair at the heart ofrefugees in so many parts of the world, including Palestine; thealarming ignorance and lack of opportunities for those millions ofchildren who have no future to look forward to. I thank God for ourCommunion, which is present in so many parts of the world where issuesof life and death are enacted daily.
Finally, this leads me to children and their future. What kind ofworld are we preparing for them? How may the joy, peace and love thatChristmas brings become a cradle for their growth as leaders ofreconciliation and bearers of hope?
I thank God for those young faces that have greeted Eileen and me inevery part of our Anglican Communion family. This year, we have beengrateful for their enthusiasm and excitement we found in Southern Ohio;for their vitality we encountered in Nigeria; for their courage weexperienced in Palestine; and the tenacity of their faith in Bahrain andQatar. My prayer is that we shall make children a priority in ourmission, worship and life.
"O Holy child of Bethlehem
Descend on us we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
That great glad tidings tell
O Come to us Abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel."