Please Pray for Unity and Peace on the Anniversary of 9/11
Today is the anniversary of the terrorist attacks and subsequent destruction of the World Trade Center buildings in New York City and all that took place on the fateful day.
One would hope that after 9 years the wounds inflicted on the hearts of survivors would have begun to heal were it not for the recent spate of news events which have done nothing but tear open the still raw sores.
First there was protest over plans for the building of a Muslim house of worship which was to be located within a short distance from “Ground Zero”. This was then followed by the infamous pastor from Florida who was going to hold a special Qu’ran burning party as a way to mark the anniversary. It would seem that inter-faith dialogue has not been at such a low point since the medieval crusades.
This is a very difficult subject and has no easy solution. The only reason I dare to speak publicly about it is because I think the scripture readings for today’s liturgy offer some very good food for thought on the subject.
In the letter to the Corinthians the Christian community that St. Paul was writing to was living in the midst of many religious traditions not unlike our own urban centers in North America. Being drawn by social pressures to participate in pagan rituals, Paul encouraged the new converts to not be fickle in their convictions but to turn from idol worship entirely and be satisfied by the Eucharistic sacrifice. Paul, a convert himself, believed that the Christian “way” was the correct way and he passionately preached the Gospel to that end. He even goes so far as to imply that to participate in the competing rituals was to enter into partnership with demons. Perhaps a message that pastor Jones can relate to.
However, nowhere in Paul’s message does he preach a message of violence. Nowhere does he say that anyone who does not believe should be destroyed or their sacred books destroyed. He simply asks believers to turn and be faithful to the Gospel.
Jesus is even more charitable than Paul. He says, “By their fruits you shall know them”. The implication is that nothing should be destroyed until it has been allowed to show what it is worth. Furthermore he goes on to say that we are not good because of a creed that we speak but rather by our actions which reflect a heart grounded in the Gospel.
In anger and hurt many people have come to associate an otherwise peaceful religion with a terrorist culture because of the actions of a few. But it needs to be said that many have similar claims against the Christian church in its own record of dealings with the aboriginal culture here in Canada and more recently with the repugnant stories of child abuse and alleged cover-ups. If we are honest we will note that there is good and bad fruit in every culture and religion. Before we condemn another faith it would be wise to prune our own orchard.
It may be years before the ground of the former World Trade Center plaza becomes a peaceful garden of memory rather than a focus of religious antagonism. Until it does the Christian way forward is to move toward; peace and reconciliation, forgiveness and faithfulness to the Gospel message, and to keep praying for the strength that we will need. This is the foundation upon which any new monument must be built or it will never stand.
Muslim Prayer for Peace
In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful.
Praise be to the Lord of the Universe who has created us
and made us into tribes and nations
That we may know each other,
not that we may despise each other.
If the enemy incline towards peace,
do thou also incline towards peace,
and trust God, for the Lord is the one
that heareth and knoweth all things.
And the servants of God, Most gracious
are those who walk on the Earth in humility,
and when we address them, we say “PEACE.”
Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred . . . let me sow love
Where there is injury . . . pardon
Where there is doubt . . . faith
Where there is despair . . . hope
Where there is darkness . . . light
Where there is sadness . . . joy
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled . . . as to console
To be understood . . . as to understand,
To be loved . . . as to love
For it is in giving . . . that we receive,
It is in pardoning . . . that we are pardoned,
It is in dying . . . that we are born to eternal life