September 11, 2001 is one of those dates that will always be with us. The events of that day were such that many people remember where they were when they heard or saw the news. More to the point, they remember what they felt when they saw the news. In the shock and horror of it all, feelings of fear, vulnerability, and grief mingled with anger and a desire to strike back at those who wrought such devastation and terror on our country.
Nine years later, the feelings are still mixed and mingled. The means of coping with the tragedy and trying to live beyond it are varied. Susan Retik lost her husband in the 9/11 attacks. After the attacks, she turned her attention toward Afghanistan. Her thinking was that there were widows there like her and that there would likely be more. Looking for ways to improve their lives, she and Patti Quigley, who was also widowed by the 9/11 attacks, founded Beyond the 11th. Both of these women had given birth shortly after the attacks to children who would never know their fathers. Remarkably, they also brought into being an organization that exists to empower widows in Afghanistan who have been afflicted by war, terrorism, and oppression. It supports programs that enable widows to support themselves and their families without begging in the street or standing in a breadline. They turned their grief toward the very country where the attacks on their husbands were conceived, and sought to do something good for others.
This weekend Ms. Retik, a Jewish woman, will continue her efforts on behalf of Afghan widows by speaking at a mosque in Boston. She will invite that Muslim community to join her in bringing hope and stability to lives of women who have lost their husbands.
If a Jewish woman and a Muslim community are coming together to act in such Christ-like ways, how then are the Christians acting? You have probably already heard about Pastor Terry Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida. These folks will mark the 9th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by hosting “International Burn a Koran Day.” This event, rather than moving beyond the pain and fear of 9/11, is designed to renew the pain and inflict it on others. This so-called pastor and those that follow him are anathema to Muslims, an embarrassment to Americans, and a shame to the cause of Christ. Beyond the Jones’ proverbial “15 minutes of fame,” nothing good can come of this event, and much that is bad very well could result.
The good news is that most Christians and Americans understand that this act is a contradiction of the best values of the Christian faith and our American heritage. To underscore this point, persons of all faiths in Gainesville have been invited to Trinity United Methodist Church for a “Gathering of Peace, Understanding and Hope.” Dan Johnson, Trinity’s Senior Pastor writes:
We call upon the news media to give this as much attention (or more) than the attention they have given to the disturbing actions planned by the Dove World Outreach Center, so that around the globe, all people will know that the Gainesville community, made up of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and more, can be both deeply committed to their respective faiths and at the same time, live in harmony and peace with one another. We dare to believe and hope that this disturbing action by a very small and misguided group might become the catalyst for one community, Gainesville, to model a way of living in harmony, mutual respect and peace. The God I know is in the habit of taking “what was intended for evil and turning it into good (Genesis 50:20), and I believe God will do it again.
If people of different faiths can come together in Gainesville to foster understanding and peace and hope, perhaps we could do it in Knoxville as well. Perhaps good can prevail over evil and love over hate.