Pillars of Steel: The 7 July Memorial

LondonThere is perhaps no other post-911 terroristic event that better exemplifies the dangers of homegrown radical violence than the events of 7/7 – the cold-heartedly planned series of explosions that claimed 52 lives in London, UK on July 7, 2005. Like the 2004 bombings in Madrid, Spain, the carefully orchestrated atrocity occurred during the early morning rush hour, as those affected were making their way to work by means of mass transit. Coming just one day after the city had been awarded the 2012 Summer Olympics, 3 bombs exploded on sub-surface underground train cars – and a fourth detonated on the top deck of a city double-decker bus later that morning. As is usually the case with terroristic violence, the victims died arbitrarily – and came from diverse backgrounds, ranging in ages from 20 to 60. Unsuspecting and innocent, they included native-born citizens of the UK, a married couple of 14 years, foreign exchange students, foreign-born British nationals, an aspiring actress and writer, and a Vietnamese-born computer worker who died one week later. A noted city of multiculturalism, the London citizens and visitors who perished that day were very representative of that fact – making the underlying hatred in the explosions even more vicious and senseless. Random and lethal, that is the face of transnational radical killing when it strikes.

Pillar with Name

The Stainless Steel Pillars of the 7/7 Memorial
Photo credit: [Jim] / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Each of the four explosions of 7/7 were detonated through acts of suicide, and in each case the terrorists utilized homemade bombs that had been constructed in a London area apartment, utilizing a highly volatile organic peroxide–based mixture. Not only were the bombs homemade, but three of the terrorists were “homegrown” citizens of the UK – whereas the fourth was a British resident and Jamaican convert to Islamic extremism. As also demonstrated with the Boston Marathon bombing, the explosive devices were taken to the location of detonation in a backpack by young men who had previously led rather ordinary lives – although each of them was callously motivated by religious ideology. Although there is no evidence directly linking the events of 7/7 to al-Qaeda, each of the four perpetrators was drawn strongly to the violent beliefs of that organization – even to the point of being expelled from school for distributing promotional leaflets. In another similarity with the bombing of the Boston Marathon, 2 of the terrorists had just completed a trip to Pakistan in the year prior to the attacks. Subsequent investigation revealed that all four of the suicide bombers seemed to have been self-radicalized and dedicated to a violent interpretation of Islamic faith that was carried out in a deadly fashion.

Videos of the perpetrators appeared later on the Arabic television channel Al-Jazeera, espousing religious fervor as the motive for the suicidal havoc they leveled on unsuspecting and innocent citizens of London that day. The oldest and suspected leader of the group addressed the camera, stating that “words have no impact upon you, therefore I’m going to talk to you in a language that you understand.” His message also made reference to years of atrocities that have been committed against the Muslim world by Western democracies such as Great Britain, necessitating “ethical stances” on their part.   “We are at war,” he concluded, “and I am a soldier. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation.” There was no doubt in his words that he intended to die as a martyr, fervently beseeching “Allah almighty to accept the work from me and my brothers and enter us into gardens of paradise.” During the video, he invoked the names of prominent al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama Bin Laden.

Located in the southeast corner of Hyde Park, the memorial recognizing the 52 victims of 7/7 was officially dedicated by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall on the fourth anniversary of the tragedy in 2009, at a ceremony attended by key political figures and surviving family members.  Consisting of 52 stainless steel pillars rising straight up from the ground, the monument was designed under the close advisement of the bereaved families. Organized into four interconnecting clusters that represent the four locations of the incident, visitors to the site can walk through the pillars and read a variety of inscriptions related to the bombing – and a stainless steel plaque lists the names of those who perished is located close by.  Although cast from long-lasting, stainless steel, the memorial has recently received attention for the removal of a rust-colored film that developed on the rougher surfaces of some pillars. Nevertheless, the memorial is well taken care of like all the monuments of the Royal Parks in the UK, and it was the site of a ceremony marking the eighth anniversary of the bombings on July 7, 2013.

plaque

The Memorial Plaque
Photo credit: Feggy Art / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Over the years since the bombing of the USS Cole, experts have carefully examined the role of “self-radicalization” evident in the continued prevalence of violent Islamic extremism – involving young Muslims that are “so enamored with al-Qaeda’s poisonous narrative that they are determined to commit spectacular violence in the name of Allah.” Although one might suspect emotional and mental problems, experts such as Brian Michael Jenkins mention that there is no cut and dried psychological profile for Islamist extremism. In fact, the conclusion has been that each such terrorist has been “remarkably ordinary.” However, the same research has uncovered a common thread in the motivation of self-radicalized terrorists, characterized by a desire to inflict glorified damage on an enemy as part of a religious war. Nevertheless, religious fervor is not the real heart of their inspiration, but rather a desire to vent anger and inflict “collective revenge” as part of an epic battle. Jenkins points out that “for a lot of these young men, the ideology has become a conveyor of individual discontent. Terrorism has become a solution to an unsatisfactory life.” This presents all the more need to promote religious and cultural tolerance as a means of lessening the allure of terrorism to some young men. It is also a call to sign the petition to which this website is dedicated. Join us by clicking the link below.

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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The International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR)

FellowshipJust prior to the outbreak of World War I in 1914, English Quaker Henry Hodgkin and German peace activist Friedrich Siegmund-Schultze met on the platform of the railroad station in Cologne, Germany. Both men were highly dedicated to the principles of worldwide amity, pledging to each other that “we are one in Christ and can never be at war” – with a conviction that led to the formation of a very unique global organization known as the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). The two men were not alone in their beliefs, since they had just met each other at a Christian pacifist conference in Konstanz, a city located in southern Germany. Siegmund-Schultze had a prior history of reaching out to Great Britain, having served as the secretary for a German religious organization promoting friendly relations between the two countries. Hodgkin’s dedication to the pledge led him to Cambridge, England, where he organized the “Fellowship of Reconciliation” in 1915 – whereas the German counterpart met stiff resistance and would not hold its first conference until 1932. With the advent of Nazi Germany, Siegmund-Schultze was forced to live in exile until the fall of Hitler in 1945. The American version of FOR sprang from a later conference Hodgkin organized in Garden City, Long Island in November of 1915, leading to the enrollment of over 1,000 U. S. members before the 1917 United States entry into World War I.

Nonviolence

The International Fellowship of Reconciliation is Strongly Dedicated to Nonviolence
Photo credit: ˇBerd / Foter / CC BY-NC

The international aspects of the movement became evident in the years intervening between World War I and World War II, especially in the late 1930s. Following the end of World War I, the different fellowships that had arisen throughout Europe and the United States agreed to form an umbrella organization known as the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), under which the individual chapters  would be affiliated. Meeting in the town of Bilthoven in the Netherlands, representatives from 10 different countries met to found this worldwide organization, which chose Swiss engineer and pacifist Pierre Ceresole as its first secretary. Ceresole was also responsible for organizing the Service Civil International, which has a long history of employing volunteers to operate work camps in areas that have been affected by war. Throughout the 1930s, “Ambassadors of Reconciliation” visited with world leaders that included Adolf Hitler, Mussolini, and Franklin Roosevelt – for the purpose of espousing diplomacy and peace, rather than the bloodshed that eventually took place during World War II. After the war these efforts spread into other regions of the world, such as Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa – through the efforts of “travelling secretaries” such as Hildegard Goss-Mayr, who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times and referred to as the “greatest living peacemaker” for her lifelong efforts in promoting world amity.

The IFOR International Secretariat is located in Alkmaar, Netherlands and it coordinates worldwide communication between member affiliates. The main governing body of the organization is a council that comes together every 4 years, developing policy, organizing programs, and regulating the day-to-day work of the association. At present, the international coordinator of IFOR is Francesco Candelari of Italy, who believes that “an organization that counts among its past and current members seven Nobel peace laureates should assume a leading role in conflict resolution and interfaith dialogue at the international level.” The overriding vision and mission of IFOR is that actions of love have the power to transform political, social, and economic injustice – thereby promoting peaceful coexistence for humanity on the planet. The main thrust and emphasis is to foster the empowerment of groups and individuals in their efforts to transform conflict into interactive engagements that involve constructive discussion and reconciliation. IFOR’s programs include a “Fellowship School” that offers nine weeks of training in nonviolent intervention to applicants ranging in age from 18 to 28, with the ultimate goal of providing

leaders for the global nonviolence movement. There is the strong inclusion of religious tolerance in the efforts of IFOR, involving interfaith delegations that are dispatched to areas of conflict and the publication of materials on nonviolence from a variety of religious perspectives. A strong proponent of disarmament, IFOR has offered backing to conscientious objectors, pontificated for an end to land mines, and called for the end of nuclear weapons and other forms of mass destruction.

Goss-Mayr

Hildegard Goss-Mayr – Noted Peacemaker
Photo credit: Fellowship of Reconciliation / Foter / CC BY-NC

The International Fellowship of Reconciliation has achieved a great deal of worldwide notoriety and success in its nearly 100 years of existence. Influenced by IFOR, diligent and persistent nonviolent resistance in the country of Chili led to the dissolution of military tyranny and the restoration of democracy in 1989 – and the impact of Goss-Mayr’s training in the Philippines played a major role in the peaceful overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986. Within the United States, the principles of nonviolence espoused by IFOR profoundly influenced the ideology of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who was an admirer of Mohandas K. Gandhi. King’s interaction with the Fellowship of Reconciliation began in 1955 during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, when FOR veterans Bayard Rustin and Glenn E. Smiley (who was serving as the national field secretary for FOR) came to Montgomery, Alabama to join in the nonviolent efforts to defy racial segregation. As close advisor to King, Rustin became “one of the most influential and effective organizers of the civil rights movement,” even bringing together the now famous “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”

The ideals espoused by IFOR are essential to any hope of ending international terrorism, for radical violence will never be eliminated through military efforts alone. As the Huffington Post noted in 2011, in many respects the Iraq War has only served as a “recruitment ad for al Qaeda” that “helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism.” A respected champion of peace, the Dalai Lama has also noted this tendency, warning that “while today there is one bin Laden, after a few years there will be ten bin Ladens … and it is possible that after a few more years, there will be 100 bin Ladens.” The Fellowship of Reconciliation also cautions against the use of violent solutions to the worldwide problem of terrorism, especially drone strikes that often kill innocent civilians – thereby serving as a “recruiting tool for extremists.” Instead, the U. S. office of FOR has promoted 10 nonviolent ways that the threat of terrorism against American citizens can be reduced. One other way that peace and the struggle against terrorism can be advanced is by clicking on the link below and signing the petition to which this website is dedicated. Join us!

You can help promote the establishment of a monument dedicated to all American victims of terrorism, whether they died at home or abroad, by clicking the link above and signing the petition. Nothing is asked but your signature for a good cause.

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