By: Molly Lomenzo
So I refrained from posting a Facebook status today about 9/11, in favor of writing something a little more thoughtful in this space, which I believe is a great place to do so.
Many of the statuses posted went something like this: “never forget.” “God Bless USA.” “Praying for the families who lost loved ones on 9/11.” Let me preface my comments by saying that these are all valid, sincere sentiments. But it does give me pause. Are we supposed to only care about Americans who died that day? Are we truly under the impression that our national security and religious/political landscape was the only one that changed on that day 12 years ago? I hope not. I hope that people remember the lives that were lost, for those who innocent lives that were cruelly and indiscriminately stolen from their loved ones forever, and there is no excuse in the world for what the people responsible did. It was a TRAGEDY of which many of us have never seen or experienced in our lifetimes. But what I pray for in addition to the victims and survivors of September 11th is something different. I pray for the American Muslims whose lives changed that day. They were no longer considered, by many, to be “American.” They were swept into a category of “otherness” that included labels of terrorists, extremists, fundamentalist, Muslims, “Pakis,” “bombers.” I pray for the citizens in every country in the world who have their lives radically changed by the “War on Terror.” It need not be a politically charged statement to say that the War on Terror has indeed created more discrimination and racism in our country and abroad. And it makes interfaith and peace work so very daunting…and yet so very necessary. Indeed, to me, the second greatest tragedy after the loss of life that day is the erosion of our values. The tenets upon which this country was built..freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to be free of persecution. It is okay to be angry. I am angry. But that cannot drown our sense of humanity.
I encourage everyone to read the book Acts of Faith by interfaith worker and American Muslim Eboo Patel, who spoke at Elon’s spring convocation last year. He is a true man of God whom I admire as much as I do Christian and Jewish men and women. He speaks about the crucial need for religious plurality and interfaith work among youth. Are we living that out in our organizations, as Awareness leaders? Are we doing that in our places of work or worship? Our families, our friendships, our relationships? All I can say is that I hope that if I am not, someone will tell me. I, myself, resolve to be kinder, more accepting, less judgmental, more welcoming. I resolve to learn from those of others faiths and cultures. Simplistic though it may be, I can’t help but think that if there were more of that in the WORLD, there would be fewer reasons to be angry and vengeful.
I will leave you with one quote from Acts of Faith, so as not to spoil the book. When reflecting upon why he does the social justice work he does, Eboo said: “I am a Muslim. This is what Muslims do.” I propose that all of us, in addition to our religious identities or non-identities, decide:
“I am a human. This is what humans do.”