9/11 interfaith service calls for peace

PHILADELPHIA – Under the theme, “Unite for peace,” over 500 people gathered at the Arch Street Friends Meeting House here Sept. 11 for an interfaith service for Peace and Justice. After the service over 600 joined in a candlelight procession through Center City to Love Park.

The interfaith service was sponsored by 22 religious congregations, committees and organizations from the Christian, Jewish and Islamic traditions, and endorsed by a list of groups including the Philadelphia chapters of the National Organization for Women and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

The service began with prayers of grief and mourning for all those killed not only in the Sept. 11 attacks, but also the victims of the retaliation. A quote from Jonathan Swift, “We have just enough religion to hate but not enough to love,” caused heads to nod.

For five minutes, the congregation reflected on what individuals were doing a year ago. Each person talked to someone nearby, creating a level of comradery.

One speaker, Mary Lord, related true stories of retaliation and vengeance in the former Yugoslavia and Burundi, how and why they happened and how and why they stopped.

George Lackey spoke about the challenge for Americans and others to construct a non-violent vision of security.

Rabbi Sara Lev described the power of really listening to others, of not seeing others as the enemy, and the ability to reach out.

The last speaker, Professor Masoud Ghaznavi, condemned the Sept. 11 attacks as monstrous and not guided by the Koran. But the lives of Muslim Americans have never been the same since Sept. 11, 2001, he said. “Many have lost all their fundamental rights without any recourse. The media will not let us tell our stories but allows others to to depict Islam as a wicked and violent religion,” said Ghaznavi.

He challenged the people of faith: “Don’t surrender your ideals and allow bigotry and lawlessness to rise. Protect the rights of all people.”

The service closed with three women of the three faiths leading a call and response of “It is our humanity that unites us.”

Carrying candles, hundreds – parents pushing strollers, older peace activists and students – walked through downtown. Some sang peace songs, while others talked softly.

At Love Park, Ben Waxman, a coordinator, read a statement from Sept. 11 Families For A Peaceful Tomorrow. “War is not the answer to what happened on Sept. 11,” the statement said. “Wars are poor chisels for carving out a peaceful tomorrow.”

The author can be reached at phillyrose1@earthlink.net