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John Paul Lederach was on his way home from Colombia on September 10. Instead, like thousands of others, he spent the next few days stranded at an airport, and reflecting on pacifism after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Lederach was due in class at Notre Dame, where he teaches international peacebuilding. Lederach has worked with Colombians for more than ten years, addressing that nation's bloody conflict. While stranded, Lederach pulled out his laptop computer and began to write.

A Mennonite and a pacifist, he drafted a wide-ranging proposal to treat the terrorists as criminals and to erode their networks from within their own cultures.

By the time Lederach arrived home, his piece had been posted online (www.mediate.com) and had gained wide readership among pacifists.

Global terrorism has provided a new challenge to the commitments of Lederach and other members of historic peace churches (mainly Quakers, Brethren, and Mennonites).

Lederach and others remain committed to pacifism. But many Christian pacifists have been shaken by the events of September 11.

Scott Simon, a National Public Radio reporter and a Quaker, said during a September 25 lecture that he had seen the "fatal flaw" of his former pacifism: "All the best people could be killed by all the worst ones."

In confronting terrorists, "the United States has no sane alternative but to wage war with. … unflinching resolution," he said. Simon repeated this declaration in a Wall Street Journal column.

Echoes of Simon's perspective rattled through many peace-church congregations. But in the weeks since, many activists have regained their footing. Largely drowned out by widespread support for the war on terrorism, they have begun carrying on an equally persistent alternative ...

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Rethinking Pacifism
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December 3, 2001

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