"I close with an Arab story called 'The Sword of Asharaf' and it comes from the desert of the Middle East and the tradition of Islam. The word 'asharaf' means 'noble' — so a literal translation is 'The Noble Sword'.

"Once upon a time there was a sword renowned in legend that would come out of the desert like the wind. It was said that whoever owned this sword and wielded it would win every contest and battle, and reign over all the tribes and lands of Islam. Of course, every sheik and warrior wanted that sword. It was said that first you had to find it, then grasp hold of it, hang onto it and win it as your own in mortal combat. Then it was yours to possess and use. They all sent people to find it, search out every possibility of where it might be hidden or who might have it unknowingly in their possession. For whoever had that sword had the desert and the homage of all its people. Whoever had that sword had power beyond anything ever seen before among the peoples.

"And then one of the sheiks found it. He was careful to make sure it was the sword of Asharaf. He practised with it and got used to the feel and heft of it in his hand. Then he went to battle, but not before he sent word ahead to all the other tribes and leaders that he came for them with the Sword of Asharaf in his possession. They all banded together against him in fear, hoping that together they might stop him. But this sheik had no fear. He felt that he could not be defeated, that he was invincible and that his power was unassailable. He went out to fight and what happened was not what he or anyone else expected. He was killed early in the fighting — impaled on his own sword!

"The leaders gathered around him. The sword was wedged firmly into his body and the look on his face was one of utter surprise, as though his last thought was a question — what? or how? The leaders all wondered — was it really the Sword of Asharaf? And if it was, was it only legend that this sword brought victory to the one who used it? Was it just a sword like any other? They were all hunched over the dead man. Slowly one of them pulled the sword out of his bloody body and wiped it on his cloak. It shone brightly in the sunlight, glinting fire, and in the light they saw words engraved in Arabic filigree that were exquisitely beautiful. The inscription read: 'Never fight with the sword. It is only through justice and understanding that others will bond with you.' They looked at each other stunned and speechless. The man repeated the message of the sword aloud, over and over again and all passed it by word of mouth to everyone gathered on the battlefield. They decided that day that it was the Sword of Asharaf, the most noble sword, and its words were truth.

"In reality, only justice and understanding made you invincible and bound you in unbreakable bonds with others who became your allies, your friends and your family. While they had the sword, they refrained from violence, seeking the ways of peace and communion. But, it is said, they lost the sword. It is somewhere in the desert still, waiting for another to find it so that other kingdoms can be saved.

"Our fear and obsession with violence, war, torture, killing and destroying other human beings proclaims that we worship these gods and bow down to them, waiting for such horror and terror to give us what we are afraid we will never have — power and security that is only ours. It is time to seize hold of the sword of truth, the sword of the Word of God and the sword of compassionate justice so that we might be saved from our fears and what the god of fear drives us to do."