By Jeannie Kendall —
It hardly seems possible that it is eighteen years ago. Like all of us I can remember that day in vivid technicolour: the shocking images, the emerging stories of heroism and tragedy, mixed together in a tapestry of despair at our world and the way in which religion – any religion – can lead to acts of atrocity from its supposed followers.
Just under a year later I was approached by a local Anglican minister, who had himself been contacted by the local rabbi and imam. Would we be willing to share in an act of remembrance together? I agreed without hesitation, learning so much as the four of us met together to plan it, from the cultural aspects – for example that the imam could not shake hands with me as a woman – to the spiritual – our common views on a God who loves his broken world and the mutual longing to be peacemakers.
It was not without controversy. One or two emails flew my way from church people – it is extraordinarily sad how people will say harsh things electronically rather than have a reasoned discussion. Yet it remains one of the most moving moments of my life as a Baptist minister. It was not worship, which we recognised we could not do with integrity, but remembering. Remembering those who had lost their lives and those whose lives would carry scars, internal or external, for the rest of their lives. Remembering that we share our frail humanity above all. Remembering that all our three faiths have much to learn from each other. Remembering that if our beliefs lead us to unloving actions or to physical or verbal violence then somewhere we have missed the mark.
The evening came. The church was packed with people from all three faiths and none. I will never forget the rabbi singing a Psalm in Hebrew, his voice somehow reaching across the centuries from David, to us, and into the future. Then it was my turn. Nervously but deeply moved I spoke – as the others had asked me to – about peace from a Christian perspective. And so with this wonderful mix of people I was able to share about the cross of Jesus, the real source of peace and the hope for our fractured and hurt world. It was an awesome privilege.
So today I will remember again, and pray, and seek to be a peacemaker for the Prince of Peace wherever I may find myself.