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Shutting the door on terrorism

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

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As the sometimes contradictory news reports from the tragic terrorist attacks in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay), India, continue to filter in, more and more specifics now appear to be certain. The attacks on at least 10 sites were the result of a highly coordinated effort. The terrorists were well trained, and while they were prepared to die, they were not suicide attackers. The death toll, still rising at this writing, exceeds 150.

One counterterrorism expert said, "It's the opening of a new front, a strike in a place that causes surprise." He added, "For the first time in a long time, you see the use of combatants who take hostages, like the Palestinians in the 1970s" (Los Angeles Times, Nov. 28).

More than one pundit has called this grimmest of episodes a "success" from the terrorists' point of view – given that the terrorists' immediate goals of seizing headlines around the world, creating havoc in the counterterrorism community, and instilling massive amounts of fear just about everywhere, have been achieved.

But it is in no way a lasting success. It will never be a permanent victory. The "new front" runs into an old fact. It may seem naive to say this, but the fact is: the door on terrorist acts can be shut and shut decisively. How? A spiritual insight from the prophet Isaiah offers this clue: "In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee" (54:14).

Yes, that's an assertion that flies in the face of mountains of tragic evidence. For those caught in the web of violence, it may seem incomprehensible. But no, the prophet was not wrong to make such a bold assertion. It all has to do with the way prayer works. When a spiritual fact contradicts terrible evidence, such as that of a terrorist attack, you need to stick with the spiritual fact, not with the horrific carnage, if you want to put your mental weight on the side of healing, if you want to begin neutralizing the evidence of tragedy.

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