We are enormously saddened by the terrible news from New York and Washington, moved beyond words by the thousands of blameless lives lost and innocent hearts broken, and inspired by the magnificent response of the firefighters and rescuers. We share deeply the shock and sorrow and anger of the American people, and are outraged by the senseless barbarity of those who, as Newsday put it, “decided it would be a good idea to fly planes full of innocent Americans into buildings full of innocent Americans.”

Our hearts are with all those, Americans and others, who are grieving and fearful. This was an atrocity aimed primarily but not not only at the United States, or even at the West whose way of life, successful economies, political and cultural affinities and predominant religions are so resented by some others—but, it almost seems, at all nations that allow their citizens to enjoy their lives and celebrate their differences. It does not represent the faithful of any religion or contribute to the solution of injustice anywhere, but expressly betrays the injunctions of the faith and the standards of justice that its perpetrators invoke.

In one infamous stroke, this monstrous act has united the world in revulsion against the victimization of innocent people and terrorism in all its forms. Let us hope that governments will be so shaken by the scale and implications of this offense to humanity that they will declare their unequivocal rejection of such acts wherever they occur—and that in the war that has been declared against terrorism they will not in anger callously or carelessly sacrifice the lives of others who are innocent.

As hard as it may be for the rest of us to fathom the motives of those who plan these dreadful acts and to understand the fanaticism or the desperation of those who are prepared to die for what most of us see as misguided and hopeless causes, we must suppose that they truly believe they are right and will not be persuaded otherwise. They have grievances they have decided cannot be addressed in any other way. Even now, in spite of the appalling way they are represented, we have to examine these grievances with the humanity that we would wish of others, responding magnanimously where we should and fiercely where we must, wary of falling into the trap of intolerance and of the long term consequences of our actions. The alternative is to risk an ever more ferocious and widening escalation of the horror of which we have been given such a bitter taste.