Sunday marks the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It is a day to look back and mourn the loss of life, the horror of aggression and the agony that all of us experienced in the aftermath of this terrible event. But it is a time too to reflect on how these events have impacted our lives.
A recent letter from the Sojourners’ team stated:
There were two paths forward from the ashes and rubble of 9/11: One path led to war, torture, and fear, but another path — led by people of faith across our land — was marked by soul-searching, genuine mourning for the lost, and standing up for peace-building and caring for our neighbors.
The letter encouraged all of us to affirm our commitment to peace building and reconciliation signing the commemoration pledge:
On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Sojourners invites you to stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters of all faiths, who are helping to build a nation that reflects our best values.
We seek to live out the second greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39), and affirm that we can live peacefully with our neighbor even if we do not share the same religion, language, dress, or country of origin.
This pledge will be shared at two commemorative events this week, hosted by national faith leaders: one in Washington, D.C., and one in New York City overlooking the World Trade Center site.
As I read this statement and think about my own reaction to these tragic events these words of Australian poet Michael Leunig come to mind:
There are only two feelings. Love and fear.
There are only two languages. love and fear.
There are only two activities. Love and fear.
There are only two motives, two procedures, two frameworks, two results
Love and fear, love and fear.
The greatest challenge all of us face when terror and tragedy strike is to respond out of love and not of fear. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, and do good to those that hate us. (Luke 6:27) But it is so hard to respond and keep responding in that way especially when everything around us seems to encourage fear rather than love.
I well remember one local church here in Seattle that surrounded the local mosque with a cordon of love in solidarity with those who were being persecuted as a result of the attacks. In gratitude that mosque now hosts a yearly BBQ that attracts hundreds of visitors, helping to break down the barriers of misunderstanding that have grown rather than lessened in the last ten years
So my challenge for all of us this morning is:
What acts of love did the events of 9/11 initiate in you? How 10 years later are you still living out love for your Muslim neighbours in ways that encourages understanding and respect?