Why is terrorism spreading like wildfire?
Violent terrorism seizes the world’s attention today. So many lives and resources are devoted to countering terrorism’s influence and impact.
Terrorist recruiters play on youthful idealism, and this is one reason the number of terrorists continues to grow. Young people tend to be highly idealistic and to dream of a different world.
Idealistic youths long to conquer the impossible, and they seek the thrill that comes from reaching new horizons. They may even be attracted by the allure of dying for a cause, along with wearing a uniform and sharing the camaraderie of becoming a team member.
This kind of psychological phenomenon always was attractive. I still remember movies devoted to the lives and actions of heroic soldiers in World War II. They inspired a generation of children to "play soldiers" and to mimic their heroics.
Today’s terrorist groups have a modernized outreach. It switches away from movies to the Internet, which has become their tool for duping young men and women. Youths hear from these groups about the nobility of fighting a just religious war, establishing a so-called virtuous nation and combating a morally corrupt world.
To the disenchanted, these groups offer an escape.
The world’s growing poverty is an underlying reason why terrorist groups are such successful recruiters. Some terrorists come from environments where only the fittest survive.
Poor education leaves still others impoverished. Many lack the wisdom born of critical thinking and may well lack a rounded sense of history. Some, too, have become anti-social and despise the world around them.
Most unfortunate are the poor who lack the benefits of a sound religious upbringing. This leaves them vulnerable to a twisted idea of God. They lack awareness of the true meaning of mercy, faith, hope and love.
Frequently, we hear that the solution to terrorism must be political. What is needed is the kind of leadership capable of building unity. This concept has value. Its drawback, however, is that it focuses too much on bargaining tables and legislatures, and not enough on the roots of poverty.
In the long run, the best ways of uprooting the poverties that spawn terrorism are to create jobs, provide sound education and flood the airwaves with truth-filled ideals that are able to counter pseudo-idealism.
It would be difficult, moreover, to overestimate the value of societies that cultivate a sense of community and belonging. Finally, religion has a role to play in all of this by not just talking about poverty but seeking God-inspired action to uproot it.
Father Hemrick is a columnist for Catholic News Service,