Respond to Mary Wald <email@example.com>
Dear Ben and all,
I would like to respond to your open letter if I could.
Because we were in the middle of the formation of the Fund for East Timor and planning some US events when September 11 happened, I was in contact with Dr. Ramos-Horta and had the opportunity to have more than one conversation with him about what had occurred.
His letter to the International Herald Tribune seems to have hit some sensitivities and created a reaction or impression which was not intended. I can tell you this because I was the one who forwarded it to the IHT, and I spoke to him about it before it went.
There is nothing in this letter inferring that a person, because they are Mulsim or Arab, is hateful or violent. I believe that anyone who has read Dr. Ramos-Horta’s work, heard him speak, or had contact with him would know that could not be further from his viewpoint. There is also nothing in the letter that implies it, unless you stretch a few points a little more than they want to stretch.
There is an accurate respresentation that there are leaders in the Arab world who foment violence. (While I agree that particular sensitivity is needed right now toward the possiblity of stirring up racial hatreds in the US, you also cannot lose sight of the fact - fact - that it is these leaders referred to who invoke their religion in the justification of violence, hence the Jihad.) And there are Israeli leaders who have not taken the steps necessary to end the cycle of violence and have incited further conflict.
This letter says nothing about the nature of Islam or the character of an Arabic person. The letter is a call to the leaders of both sides of that struggle to say this has gone far enough. It calls on them to become leaders, and end it. It says that this conflict has been allowed to spiral out of control until the ramifications have hit us today in this horrendous event, and it’s time to say that’s enough. If you notice, it is very clearly addressed to both sides of the conflict.
It is worth noting that some months ago, in East Timor, when some of the Timorese demonstrated in front of a mosque, Dr. Ramos-Horta called them together, with the leader of the mosque, and had them apologize. They did, and that was the end of the demonstration.
The Sunday after the attacks, he initiated and spoke at an interfaith vigil in Dili for the victims of the attack. The service was led by Archbishop Belo, and representatives from the Protestant, and Muslim, communities.
Is he aware of American involvement in the Mideast, and the effects that their military support of various factions may have had in the region? Can you name anyone who, from an outside viewpoint, would have more understanding of this fact? Undoubtedly, after 24 years of immersion in a struggle against an occupying force many times the size of Israel, and more adequately equipped by the US, he has more understanding of this, from more viewpoints, that you or I or.
The day before yesterday, I was discussing something with him that was related to this topic, a comment from someone about American foreign policy and the need to inspect its role in this tragedy. His response to me was that, yes, that needs to be addressed, but to bring this up now is like telling parents who are grieving over the death of their child, “Yes, but he shouldn’t have been in the street, should he?”
You may or may not have seen the web site where the comments of the Laureates on the attacks are posted, at <http://www.thecommunity.com/crisis> I suggest that you read his latest posting on this site, which will give further insight into his views. It expands on some of the points in this earlier letter, and I believe will clarify any questions.
I hope that this might help to give you a more full picture of the context of the IHT letter.
All the Best,
BD: The Current World Crisis - A collection of statements on the recent terrorist attacks in the US and the subsequent 'war on terrorism'