As we approach yet another September 11, we are reminded that the world we live in continues to be fragile place where emotions and tensions run high. There are not many of us who will ever forget where we were on that September morning nine years ago. We should never forget those whose lives were taken away in the horror of just a few hours.
September 11 should be, for all of us, a day of prayer for peace in this world. It should be a day for quiet remembrance and reflection as we seek to find and live in the ways of peace. We think of Jesus pausing on his way into the holy city of Jerusalem on the day we call Palm Sunday. He wept over the city – not so much for what was about to happen to him, but because the people did not know the things that make for peace (Luke 19:41-42). We suspect he still weeps, looking out over the world we currently inhabit.
September 11 should be a day of prayer for rebuilding and restoring relationships, and for reaching out to find ways to work and live together in this world. It is not a day for burning the holy book of another faith tradition. Tragically one person has garnered headlines for advocating such a thing. There is nothing of Jesus in such an action. In fact, as we recall, there was a time when the disciples wanted to call down fire from heaven on the perceived enemies for refusing to receive Jesus. No, Jesus said; in fact he “rebuked” those who advocated such a means. (Luke 9:51-55). Such an action is not the way of Jesus, nor the way of peace and love.
There was a meeting earlier this week in Washington, DC, of religious leaders of many faith communities. The United Methodist Church and its Council of Bishops was represented by its Executive Secretary, Bishop Neil L. Irons. The members of the group, in a formal statement, said: “We are committed to building a future in which religious differences no longer lead to hostility or division between communities. Rather, we believe that such diversity can serve to enrich our public discourse about the great moral challenges that face our nation and our planet. On the basis of our shared reflection, we insist that no religion should be judged on the words or actions of those who seek to pervert it through acts of violence; that politicians and members of the media are never justified in exploiting religious differences as a wedge to advance political agendas or ideologies... We work together on the basis of deeply held and widely shared values, each supported by the sacred texts of our respective traditions. We acknowledge with gratitude the dialogues between our scholars and religious authorities that have helped us to identify a common understanding of the divine command to love one’s neighbor. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all see an intimate link between faithfulness to God and love of neighbor; a neighbor who in many instances is the stranger in our midst.“
“We are convinced that spiritual leaders representing the various faiths in the United States have a moral responsibility to stand together and to denounce categorically derision, misinformation or outright bigotry directed against any religious group in this country. Silence is not an option. Only by taking this stand, can spiritual leaders fulfill the highest calling of our respective faiths, and thereby help to create a safer and stronger America for all of our people.”
We urge all of us to approach the remembrance of September 11 in prayer and hope for peace; and in resolving to do everything we can individually and collectively to live the way of Jesus. It is our prayer that this weekend be filled with prayers and not the fires of hatred and irrational rage.
Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster President, Council of Bishops Bishop Neil L. Irons Executive Secretary, Council of Bishops