In the wake of the Manchester Arena attack, Irish Jesuit philosopher Pat Riordan says it is a mistake to dismiss the actions of the suicide bomber as simply ‘evil’. In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, the Irish Jesuit, who lives and lectures in London, says we must go deeper and engage with the worldview that leads to such horrific attacks.
He draws on his own experience of dialogue with Muslim friends whom he says are themselves conflicted and perplexed by such events. They abhor what is done in their name, but at the same time they acknowledge that at the heart of their own ancient texts there is a dimension that allows for the justification of attacks such as in the Arena or recently on Westminster Bridge.
He talks about the development of the Just War theory in the Catholic tradition and how it tries to address moral issues such as justifiable targets, ground rules for going to war, and self-defense. And he notes how the Catholic Church in the past endorsed actions to be done in its name and in the name of Christ that we would now find abhorrent. Witches and heretics, for example, were handed over to be burned at the stake, and peoples in colonised countries were enslaved with the blessing of the Church.
Also discussed in the interview is the thin line between faith and ideology and the detrimental role both ideology and fundamentalist religion can play in providing an explanation, and even justification, for terror attacks.
Pat Riordan concludes that major faiths like Islam must be continually scrutinizing their theology and the ethical paradigms that emerge from such theology. The conflict which he says his own good Muslim friends have experienced must be addressed through sustained reflection and dialogue with other faiths such as Christianity. In a world replete with war zones where children and innocent people are deemed legitimate targets, we must work for healing and peace, and we can do so through honest, self-critical reflection, mutual respect and dialogue for change.