Life & Faith: On Terror

Looking beyond the global threat of terrorism to the local, everyday reality of extremism and fear.

One of the defining narratives of the twenty-first century is the threat of global terrorism. It dominates the news cycle and is one of our society’s greatest fears.

According to a recent Pew study, Australians consider the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) as the global threat they are most concerned about – 69 per cent of people responded that they were “very concerned” about ISIS, ahead of climate change and the economy.

This response means that for most Australians, terrorism isn’t a vague global threat that we perceive from afar – it’s real, frightening and near.

In this episode, we look at how terrorism affects people in our everyday lives.

Richard Shumack talks about what it’s like to live alongside Muslim people and being a part of their community.

“Some people told me they hated me,” Richard says. Some of the people he worked with were grateful for his friendship, while others were bitter about their circumstances. Nevertheless, Richard says his first response is always compassion.

Professor Greg Barton explains what’s involved in the work that’s happening on the ground to counter violent extremism.

“Almost invariably, radicalisation happens through peer networks,” he says. “Friendship tends to be the first thing that moves people to the ideas.” Professor Barton talks about society as a whole having a ‘duty of care’ to steer young Australians away from a pathway towards radicalisation and violent extremism.

To round off our conversation on terror, clinical psychologist Leisa Aitken explores our greatest fear and suggests ways we can counter our collective and individual anxiety around terrorism.

“Work out a way not to avoid what you’re anxious of,” Leisa says. “Every time you avoid it, you send a message to yourself – I’m safe because I avoided it.” With terror attacks happening in places that we visit every day – a coffee shop, the airport, on a bus or train – it’s important and helpful to keep doing life normally. 

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