This was inspiral’s contribution to the White Paper consultations, written and read by Anthony.
My name is Anthony Nicholas. I am speaking on behalf of Inspiral, a faith community in the inner north of Melbourne, Australia, who are exploring together the way of life demonstrated by Jesus Christ. We have been asked to address three questions:
1) What role should our armed forces play?
2) What kind of armed forces should we develop?
3) Can we afford such forces?
I would like to answer these questions by way of a short concrete example.
On October 26, 2003, police raided the Sydney home of a Pakistani-Australian man called Faheem Khalid Lodhi. They found terrorist manuals showing how to make detonators, explosive devices and poisons. They also found maps of the Sydney electricity supply system and 38 aerial photos of Australian military installations. Justice Anthony Whealy determined that Lodhi’s intent was to pursue “violent jihad” to “instil terror into members of the public so that they could never again feel free from the threat of bombing in Australia.” Lodhi is now serving 20 years in prison classified as a high security ‘AA’ prisoner.
Lodhi was sent by a Pakistani Muslim Group called Lashkar-e-Taiba historically based in Pakistani Punjab. Lashkar-e-Taiba has always wanted India out of Kashmir. After September 11, they starting fighting in Afghanistan. Lodhi was sent here with orders to bomb because Lashkar did not like Australian troops fighting in Afghanistan. This example shows the kind of threats Australia is facing – they are real and have the potential to do great harm.
Our tanks, missiles and planes are not going to stop Lashkar-e-Taiba’s next bomber. To rely on the police is a bad idea – they will not stop these bombers every time, in every place. No – the soldier Australia needs to win this war is not Australian – he or she is a Pakistani Muslim. They are going to stop that bomber because they are going to say “Hey everybody, I don’t agree with this suicide bombing against Australia. Australians aren’t anti-muslim. Maybe we disagree on some things, but this is too much.” That is the soldier we need. They question is, how do we recruit them?
That is a hard question. But, you know what – we’ve done it before. Over 35 years, 40,000 people from Asia came to study in Australian institutions under the Colombo Plan. That’s a 40,000 strong army of people through Asia willing to give us a chance and a fair go to speak up on our behalf. What about now in Pakistan and Afghanistan? Have we got people on the ground? We need an army there, local people, muslims, who understand us, who will speak up on our behalf. We will have those people on the ground speaking up for us only if we act with love towards them. We must ensure that we do not act in a way that threatens their security, and instead chose a path that positively promotes their well-being. The Colombo plan is just one example showing our ability to do that when we set our minds to it.
Can we afford to reach out with love to our neighbours? Can we afford to bring them here on scholarships, to spend money learning their languages and reconciling our views of what is just? Yes we can. We far prefer our money spent on building happiness, justice (both here and overseas) and security rather than in buying more bullets, guns and insecurity.