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FIRST-PERSON: Profiling evil & overcoming it

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (BP)–How do you “profile” evil, especially evil that clothes itself in religious fanaticism?

Since the Sept. 11 attack and the ongoing war against terrorism, “racial profiling” has taken on a new meaning. Particularly intriguing is the fact that, while blacks in America have often perceived themselves as victims of such profiling tactics, a recent survey showed that over 71 percent of blacks were in favor of profiling Arab Muslims. Hugh Prize, president of the National Urban League, was very disturbed by the alarming survey, saying, “The survey reflects the fear and the emotional state of our time.” Ken Hamblin, syndicated talk radio host, suggests the survey also reflects how out of touch many black leaders are with the black community.

The survey is disturbing; profiling is perceived by many as a troubling aspect of criminal investigation. Yet blacks, like other citizens, should not be blamed for responding negatively in the aftermath of such a profound terrorist attack. The events of Sept. 11 were so frightening and psychologically overwhelming that many Americans have been challenged to reexamine their view of personal liberties and national security.

From a more rational perspective, most Americans are able to see the distinction between the harassment of a suspected drug dealer driving an expensive automobile in an affluent neighborhood and the pursuit of those who commit such diabolic, evil acts as hijacking planes to use as missiles, destroying thousands of innocent Americans. These horrific acts of terror bring new meaning to the prophet’s words, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?”(Jeremiah 17:9, KJV).

Profiling clearly has its limitations. Racial profiling should never be used as the singular determinant as law enforcement seeks to bring to justice the perpetrators of these wicked acts — “the evildoers,” in the words of President Bush. What is most disturbing about the evil of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network is the vastness of its scope. How tragic it is that this murderous cancer has spread through 40 or more countries, hiding in the shadows of normal communities, going seemingly unnoticed.

In contrast to the evil of this religious fanaticism, we are reminded in the Christian Scriptures: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

To overcome the evil, our nation has been praying, and we need to keep praying, but just as the war is being fought on many fronts, so must intercessory prayers be made on many fronts. We must pray for our nation and, indeed, for the global community.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In fact, what is taking place in Afghanistan is nothing more that a 21st-century “Taliban apartheid,” where 25,000 people, mostly foreigners, are oppressively ruling 2 million Afghan citizens, including subjecting women to shameful acts of violence and to social isolation from healthcare and education.

No reasonable person wants war. As a parent of a daughter serving in the armed forces, I, like many other Americans, am most concerned about seeing our young men and women being put in harm’s way. However, British Prime Minster Tony Blair is absolutely right in saying, “Whatever the dangers of the action we take, the dangers of inaction are far, far greater.”

There is a word of caution as we act against evil. We must not be seduced by hate or the need to get revenge, lest we become like the evildoers we so deplore. Overcome evil by doing good. Let us continue to pray for the suffering Afghans and continue to deliver food to the refugees who find themselves real victims in the quagmire of the evil forced on them by the Taliban and Al Qaeda. As America faces the threat of terrorist attacks at home with biological warfare such as anthrax, let us continue to reach out to one another with acts of compassion and moral support. Let us pray for God to grant us strength in these difficult days, helping us not to judge people by their outward appearance, but rather by the content of their character. I’m convinced that the will of God will never lead us where the grace of God cannot keep us.

Only with God’s help we can overcome evil.
Terriel R. Byrd, Ph.D., is assistant professor of religion and director of Ethnic Church Ministries at Palm Beach Atlantic College, West Palm Beach, Fla.

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  • Terriel Byrd