William Penn’s Advice for War on Terrorism

William Penn’s Advice for War on Terrorism

By “William Penn”
Philadelphia Daily News
October 31, 2001

William Penn stands atop Philadelphia’s City Hall, seemingly surveying the Holy Experiment he crafted out of the ideals of his Quaker faith.

The founder of Pennsylvania had hoped that his just society based on participatory government, religious tolerance and the nonviolent resolution of conflict would serve “as a model to all nations” of the world.

I can only wonder what he is thinking in these uncertain times when fears of bioterrorism and extremist calls for jihad threaten his noble vision. What advice would Penn have today, as we celebrate the 300th anniversary of his Charter of Privileges, a colonial constitution that inspired the First Amendment’s freedom of religion clause?

To Osama bin Laden and the other Muslim extremists who defend their terrorist activities under the guise of a divinely inspired holy war and the promise of salvation in an afterlife, Penn would remind them that “true godliness doesn’t turn men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it and excites their endeavors to mend it.”

Penn, much like the true adherents of Islam, believed in a “Lamb’s War,” the submission of self to the will of the Almighty as a way of transforming an imperfect society into a more godly one. He realized that social change begins with individual change, not with the weapons of war. And once the individual submits himself, he will want to serve others, not destroy them.

To President Bush, who has pursued a two-pronged course of bombing the Taliban’s strategic sites while sending aid to innocent Afghan citizens, Penn would agree that “peace is maintained by justice.” But he would add that while “force may subdue, love gains. Let us then try what love can do.”

That is why Penn, the peacemaker, conceived a plan for a league of nations that was centuries ahead of its time. According to his 1693 plan, an international parliament would be composed of representatives from every nation and would meet regularly, make rules of justice and arbitrate disputes. Member nations would unite to enforce judgments, not through military might, but with economic and political sanctions.

The terrorists who were responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks and the more recent anthrax mailings, as well as those who might be contemplating similar actions, would be chastised by Penn for their “ignorance of themselves, for not knowing how to estimate their Creator because they know not how to value his Creation.” He believed that life – Christian, Muslim or Jewish – is as precious to God as it should be to man.

And to the innocent victims of Sept. 11 and the family and friends they left behind, Penn would offer the following prayer:

“My soul prays to God for thee that thou may stand in the day of trial, that thy children may be blest of the Lord, and thee saved by His power.”