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Jewish World Review Jan. 23, 2002 / 11 Shevat, 5762

Bob Greene

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The thread that seems to bind us all -- THE natural state of the world, of course, is peace.

That is what we tell ourselves as we begin each new day. Peace is the way of the world; conflict is an aberration. If we did not believe that, it would be difficult to get through each new week.

As this week commenced, police in Northern Ireland were looking for the killers of a Catholic postal worker by the name of Daniel McColgan, 20 years old. McColgan was arriving for work at a postal sorting office in Belfast when he was shot several times. Two men with scarves over their faces were observed fleeing from the scene; police said a group known as the Red Hand Defenders claimed to have carried out the killing, continuing years of Protestant-Catholic carnage.

Also as the new week began, leaders of the Southern African Development Community were deciding what to do about the latest looting of white-owned farms in Zimbabwe. Government-backed militants stole crops, slaughtered cattle and forced 23 landowners from their homes, including one farmer who was given five minutes to vacate his property.

In the Sudan this week, the phase of a civil war that began in 1983 -- a war in which more than 2 million people are estimated to have died -- raged on, and the United States offered to mediate talks between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army.

This week in Pakistan and India, armies from both nations faced off along the border, and police were saying that Pakistani security forces in six cities had raided the homes and offices of religious organizations said to be involved in sectarian violence. About 260 militants were arrested, and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf vowed to close mosques where "hatred and intolerance" are preached.

This week at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, captured members of the Al Qaeda terrorist group were settling into a prison at the base. U.S. military leaders said that the number of Al Qaeda prisoners transported to and imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay could eventually reach 2,000.

This week in Jerusalem, tensions were said to be running high after Israeli commandos destroyed a Palestinian patrol boat and a fishing vessel in the port of Gaza. The action was in retaliation for a deadly border raid, and a plot to smuggle weapons. The militant group Hamas immediately vowed: "This horrible terrorist action will not go unpunished, and we assert our right to defend our people against the Zionist aggression and occupation."

In Colombia this week, hopes for tranquility were dampened, and fears for an escalation of violence were newly ignited, after President Andres Pastrana rejected a negotiating proposal by the country's largest rebel group. Pastrana gave the guerrillas a deadline for leaving a "safe zone" they were granted by the government in 1998 -- a zone in which the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia allegedly train recruits and hide kidnap victims. Pastrana warned that if they do not vacate the zone, they will face attack.

This week in Bilbao, Spain, a downtown street was being repaired after a car bomb exploded, injuring two people and shattering windows in surrounding buildings. A caller to a newspaper claimed that the Basque separatist group ETA had planted a bomb; police evacuated the area, but were unable to find the car that contained the bomb before it exploded. The car was said to have been loaded with as much as 44 pounds of dynamite.

Along the Afghan border with Pakistan this week, security concerns heightened as Afghan fighters, with the backing of U.S. Special Forces, watched over a sealed checkpoint in what was said to be an attempt to prevent tribesmen from bringing weapons across. Armed men were said to be on the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, even though Interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai had ordered that guns be banished from those streets.

In the United States this week, people weary of foreign news were discussing what will take place at the upcoming sentencing hearing for the father of a young hockey player who became angry at another father at hockey practice, and who was convicted in court of beating that father to death.

Peace is the world's natural state. If we didn't believe that, we could not start each new morning.

JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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