Fanatical hatred and the destructive power of evil struck the Western world this year with a shock that erodes our feelings of security and critically diminishes our sense of well-being. Human life is exceedingly vulnerable and modern society is very fragile, just exactly where it has created, with all of its luxury and cherished safety, a sense of impregnability.

The lack of respect for life and death and the intolerance that feeds terrorism confront us with a world view that confounds us. God’s peace is ever foremost in all of the world’s religions. Respect for the sanctity of life is the cornerstone of every religion’s morality. Justice is everywhere recognized as the basis of human society. Solidarity is the universally accepted basis of coexistence.

Despite this, history teaches us that no religion has been free of profanation and false preaching. Where ideologies and religious misinterpretations incite bigotry, promulgate hatred and stimulate aggression, tolerance ends. When the common good is desecrated and human rights are defiled, one must lay down clear limits. No concessions may be made with respect to the principles and norms of a state based on the rule of law.

The principles of our democracy include, at a minimum, the recognition of diversity of convictions and respect for the beliefs of all. This means tolerance of the opinions and cultures of others. The maintenance of good relations requires that differences be recognized for what they are, and in the mutual search for balanced attitudes, the background of these differences be examined. No one may be absent from this dialogue.

The problems of this world are so gigantic that some are paralysed by their own uncertainty. Courage and wisdom are needed to reach out above this sense of helplessness. Desire for vengeance against deeds of hatred offers no solution. An eye for an eye makes the world blind. If we wish to choose the other path, we will have to search for ways to break the spiral of animosity.

To fight evil one must also recognize one’s own responsibility. The values for which we stand must be expressed in the way we think of, and how we deal with, our fellow humans.

From the Christmas Message 2001 of HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands