I started my day with a sickness in the pit of my stomach. Somebody with a whole lot of money had paid to insert copies of a fear-mongering, anti-Muslim DVD movie into many editions of Sunday newspapers coast to coast.
The 1960s dictum flashed through my mind: You’re not paranoid. Somebody out there really is trying to get you.
I thought as well about the 2008 version, which goes more like this: Protect your mind. There really are people out there trying to fill it with hate.
I’m not Muslim, but I am the overall Editor of the SharingRamadan project, which is trying to improve understanding of our Muslim neighbors by sharing their inspiring stories during the holy month of fasting. And I am an Editor for Dr. Wayne Baker’s OurValues project, where this week Dr. Baker is marking the seventh anniversary of 9/11 by devoting his articles to a balanced understanding of our Arab-American neighbors. (Dr. Baker was a lead researcher on a landmark study of this community along with a team of six other scholars, a body of work that’s about to be published in book form.)
But, then, somebody with a ton of money paid to send this fearmongering propaganda on DVD to homes like mine all over the United States on a sunny, autumn Sunday. Apparently, it was their way of stirring up fear for the anniversary of 9/11.
It made me want to get out and do something about it. How about you?
And so, I’m filing this Monday story while on a retreat in western Michigan with a couple of dozen men and women from all over the United States who, just like me, want to make a peaceful difference in the world by bridging the chasm between the three Abrahamic faiths.
These Christians, Muslims and Jews at this retreat center in the woods … These scholars, clergy, activists and psychologists … These writers, teachers and artists … we’re all spending a couple of days together talking about ways to build bridges rather than sit still while fearful fires burn.
The photo at the top of today’s story is from this center, called Seasons, where we’re meeting. It’s not clear what this retreat in the woods will produce this week. Some of the scholars among us want to study the problem and, perhaps, produce new insights for the teachers, clergy, activists and psychologists among us. Everyone is sincerely committed to this work.
But here at ReadTheSpirit, we’re steeped in the principles of daily journalism. We know that, just like me, you want to do something now, today, while you’re thinking about the lingering wounds from 9/11 yourself.
And so, today, we’re giving you something that you can do, too.
Wherever you live.
Whatever your age or your background.
You can become an interfaith pilgrim for peace.
Today, on our “Interfaith Heroes” landing page (click on this link or use the convenient navigation tab at the top of this page), we’re giving you a FREE Interfaith Passport. And we’re starting to build a calendar of places you might consider visiting. There are just a handful of calendar items now, but you can submit more. Send us ideas from close to your home.
Then, in addition to giving you those new resources, I want to leave you something for the anniversary week of 9/11 that won’t fill your brain with hate. Here at ReadTheSpirit, we want to help you fill your brain and heart with compassion, real insight and the voices of your neighbors who want to
build a better world.
So, we’ll close today by leaving you with what’s known around the world as the Coventry Cathedral Litany of Reconciliation. This famous church in England was bombed by the Luftwaffe on Nov. 14, 1940. According to Coventry Cathedral’s own version of the story: Shortly after the destruction, the cathedral stonemason Jock Forbes noticed that two of the charred medieval roof timbers had fallen in the shape of a cross. He set them up in the ruins where they were later placed on an altar of rubble with the words “Father Forgive” inscribed on the sanctuary wall.
The following prayer was read in the wake of the bombing. The litany of forgiveness in the face of such violence has been passed around the world ever since. I have adapted the litany slightly to offer it in a more inclusive form:
The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,
The covetous desires of individuals and nations to possess what is not their own,
The greed which exploits human labor, and lays waste to the earth,
Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Our indifference to the plight of the homeless and the refugee,
The lust which uses for ignoble ends the bodies of men and women,
The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves, and not in God,
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one-another as God forgives you.
Now, go and start your week. Get your free Passport. Check the calendar and, even if there’s nothing near your home on the calendar, use it to start your own thinking about places you could go.
And, be kind to one another this week.
Forgiving one-another, especially in this week.
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