UCC Officers Pray for Healing, Understanding, Unity in Love on September 11 Anniversary
The three national officers of the United Church of Christ issued this statement on Sept. 7, 2021.
As we approach the 20th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, we are sobered once again by the impact these events had on our collective psyche.
We all remember exactly where we were that day and what we were doing, as pictures and images began to invade our seemingly secure lives. There was an initial disbelief that what we were seeing was actually possible. As the day wore on, it began to dawn on us all that these acts were intentional, well-orchestrated, and designed not just to kill many but to inflict terror on all. Soon it would become painfully obvious that we were now living in a different world than the one we woke up to that morning.
In the days and weeks to come, stories would surface of heroic acts by first-line rescuers that day; of family members who did not survive the attacks; of miraculous accounts of those who had somehow escaped and survived; of kindnesses that were extended to the wounded and dying; and of the courage on board United Airlines Flight 93, bound for the U.S. Capitol, which crashed in Pennsylvania. Mixed in with the trauma and the grief was empathy, kindness, and courage.
Four days after the attacks, in Mesa, Arizona, 42-year-old Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh-American born in India and wearing a turban, was racially profiled and murdered by Frank Silva Roque, who told friends earlier he was going to go out and “shoot some towel-heads.”
For 20 years now, the attacks that happened on Sept. 11 have engendered sympathy around the world, have heightened a fear that politicians in America have used to their advantage, have justified otherwise unjust wars, have initiated the roll-back of laws that kept the government out of our private lives, and have manufactured a new brand of racism that identifies people of the Muslim faith as terrorists.
We mourn not just the loss of innocent lives, but of a time before Timothy McVeigh and 9/11 made the threat of terror less a distant and remote possibility than a pervasive and ever-present expectation.
As we approach the 20th anniversary, the wounds are still fresh and in need of healing. But we also know that the suffering that came from that day is no longer a suffering we bear alone. The news and images of Afghani families being slaughtered, tortured, and imprisoned in their homeland while waiting for a disappearing America to come to their rescue is heart-breaking. Long after this war began, a war built on American rage and eschewing the global empathy that was there to be exploited for common gain and good, we were asking hard questions about why we were there, what we accomplished, and what we are leaving behind in our wake. Time and history may indeed conspire to reveal that we had other options, ones that bore more hope for better outcomes both at home and abroad.
It is our hope and our prayer that this 20th anniversary will rekindle within us all a desire less to retaliate than to heal, less to avenge than to understand. The world is aswarm with over 82 million refugees, a figure only exacerbated by wars that devastate. Terror is not only something to be grieved and avenged; it is as well something to be understood. Behind every terror attack is a history of someone else’s long-suffering. An emerging fear in the aftermath of the 20-year war in Afghanistan is what it has done to exacerbate both their long-suffering circumstances and our complicity in creating them.
What are our pathways to understanding the root causes of terror? Where is the journey that leads to a new understanding of how we live in peace as a human, global community in which every action produces a reaction? What is a gospel that speaks of forgiveness, kindness to the stranger, love of enemy, and compassion for all calling us to do and be as disciples of the risen Christ?
We, the Elected Officers of the United Church of Christ, call for and invite a turning towards the ways that make for peace between all peoples. Let us unlearn the ways of war. Let us no longer cultivate fear for the purchase of political power. Let us be eager to know both the conditions that make for suffering, and the requisite empathy needed to alleviate it.
We call for continued prayers for those grieving loved ones who died in the attacks on Sept. 11, for whom this anniversary will serve to re-open their healing wounds.
We name our complicity with the ways in which a centered Christianity in America has authorized Islamophobia and marginalized Muslim peoples.
And finally, we embrace the hope that people of faith will unite in a common love for all. That love is the only pathway we see to the vision we have of a just world for all.
Echoing the words of St. Francis, we pray:
Make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is sadness, joy.
Amen and Ashe.
The National Officers of the United Church of Christ
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