On May 11, 12 and 13, 2011, the Asociación 11M Afectados del Terrorismo [Association March 11 of those Affected by Terrorism] convened an international gathering in Madrid to explore the beliefs, work, and hopes of victims of terrorism concerning democratic justice and peace. As the Asociación 11M, was one of the founding members of the International Network for Peace [INP], which Peaceful Tomorrows helped to form on the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it was an honor and a pleasure to be invited to speak at their conference, to renew bonds of friendship and shared interests, and to see the efforts of the INP continue to evolve.
I was asked to help open the conference with remarks about the experiences of different individuals and organizationsin the INP, and then later on the first day, I also offered some lengthier remarks about my personal journey trying to understand what justice and peace mean to me as someone whose sister was killed on 9/11, who also struggles with the injustices and violence that my own government has been responsible for. There were also deeply moving presentations by the families of the victims of the 1994 bombing of the A.M.I.A. [Argentine Israelite Mutual Association] building in Buenos Aires, by the mother of a young girl killed in the 2004 massacre at the school in Beslan, from those who lost loved ones or who were injured in the 2004 attacks in Madrid, and from relatives of Spanish citizens who experienced terrorist attacks while living or working in Egypt and Yemen.
But by far the most rewarding experiences of my days in Madrid were the meetings that a number of us had with local high school students. The young women and men we met asked thoughtful and penetrating questions. They wondered whether the death of Osama Bin Laden (who had been killed just days before) was going to reduce or inflame terrorists. They debated how they could build a society that was inclusive and was not part of the growing wave of “Islamophobia” sweeping Europe and the U.S. Many of them wrote to us about the impact our presentation had on them. Their vision and compassion are a true inspiration!