All violence is injustice. Responding to violence with violence is injustice, not only to the other person but also to oneself. Responding to violence with violence resolves nothing; it only escalates violence, anger and hatred, and increases the number of our enemies. It is only with compassion that we can embrace and disintegrate violence. This is true in relationships between individuals as well as in relationships between nations.
The violence and hatred we presently face has been created by misunderstanding, injustice, discrimination and despair. We are all co-responsible for the making of violence and despair in the world by our way of living, of consuming and of handling the problems of the world. Understanding why this violence has been created, we will then know what to do and what not to do in order to decrease the level of violence in ourselves and in the world, to create and foster understanding, reconciliation and forgiveness.
Many people in America consider Jesus Christ as their Lord, their teacher. They should heed His teachings on non-violence, especially during critical times like this. Jesus never encouraged people to respond to acts of violence with violence. His teaching is, instead, to use compassion to deal with violence. The teachings of Judaism go very much in the same direction.
Spiritual leaders of this country are invited to raise their voices, to bring about the awareness of this teaching to the American nation and people. What needs to be done right now is to recognize the suffering, to embrace it and to understand it. We need calmness and lucidity so that we can listen deeply to and understand our own suffering, the suffering of the nation and the suffering of others around the world. By understanding the nature and the causes of the suffering, we will then know the right path to follow to heal it.
I have the conviction that America possesses enough wisdom and courage to perform an act of forgiveness and compassion, and I know that such an act can bring great relief to America and to the world right away.
*Thich Nhat Hanh, the author and a Buddhist monk, has been a tremendous peace activist since the sixties and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr.