In Memory of 9/11: Let Us Wage Peace

 

Community members walk in meditation around City Park, remembering 9/11 victims and contemplating a future with filled with peace. Photo: Joe Hennager

Community members walk in meditation around City Park, remembering 9/11 victims and contemplating a future with filled with peace. Photo: Joe Hennager

Today, like communities all across the nation, citizens of Iowa City held a commemorative service for those who died in the 9/11/2001 attacks. The messages shared were clear: While we honor and remember the victims of that day and the heroes who emerged, we must not let the events divide us as a nation. We are diverse in religion, custom, culture, and race; yet we are one people. The event was organized by the Consultation of Religious Communities, and hosted by Mel Schlacter, a priest at Trinity Episcopal Church.

Speakers included religious leaders from local Muslim, Jewish, and Christian congregations, as well as political leaders and representatives of firefighters, police, and national guard. Each speaker received applause, but none so loud nor so long as Ed Flaherty. His words are potent reminders of the priorities we must keep in mind if we truly wish to build a just and peaceful world. We share them with you here. ~Julia Wasson, Publisher


Reverend Mel Schlacter addresses the audience at the Shakespeare Festival Theatre in City Park, while members of Disciples Strings of First Christian Church prepare to sing a chant of peace. Photo: Joe Hennager

Reverend Mel Schlacter addresses the audience at the Shakespeare Festival Theatre in City Park, while members of Disciples Strings of First Christian Church (led by Dr. John McKinstry, far right) prepare to sing a chant of peace. Photo: Joe Hennager

We all speak today of healing, understanding, and peacemaking.

The images of September 11, 2001 are etched in our minds. But we need to be more concerned with what we have done with 9/11 than with 9/11 itself.

Yes, we mourn the loss of so many innocent victims. We laud the heroism of the firefighters and so many others. And we will always be outraged at the inhumanity of the attackers. But I don’t think that the 2,977 victims on 9/11 died to usher in a period of perpetual war.

We must remember that the tragedy of 9/11 was used as an opportunity for war—how to initiate war on Iraq was on the lips of our leaders the day after.

We need to add to our minds’ images the 6,236 U.S. armed services personnel who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan; the 40,000+ who bear visible wounds; the 400,000+ who bear the invisible wounds of PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] and TBI [traumatic brain injury]; and, yes, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan dead. We must remember it all, if we are to heal.

We must do more than remember.

Children from the various congregations folded origami doves and cranes for community members to carry on their meditation walk. Photo: Julia Wasson

Children from the various congregations folded origami doves for community members to carry on their meditation walk. Photo: Julia Wasson

We must honor the victims of 9/11 by welcoming home all U.S. troops currently in Iraq by the end of this year. We must honor the victims of 9/11 by proclaiming loudly that the ten-year, $300 million-per-day war in Afghanistan, the longest in our history, has gone on long enough. Honor the victims of 9/11 by saying “NO” to a US military budget that is nearly equal to that of all other countries combined.

In the words of President Eisenhower, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

Or, earlier words, “Wheresoever your treasure is, there your heart is also.”

Wars are much easier to start than to end. Let us take up the heavy, sweet burden of waging peace.

Ed Flaherty, President

Veterans for Peace, Chapter #161

Iowa City, Iowa

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Notes from Iowa: Peace on Earth in 2010

I wish the world peace and low-carbon skies in 2010. Photo: © Ackley Road Photos - Fotolia.com

As we greet the beginning of a new year and a new decade, let’s remember what is truly important: Saving our planet and caring for each other. We cannot do the first without doing the second. And, if we do not pull together to end the climate crisis, we will have fought each other over a planet that we don’t get to keep. Humankind will be “history,” but there will be no one left to read the records of our misdeeds.

Yet, the climate crisis is far from our only serious problem. We are warring with each other over religion, ethnicity, property, power, and money. We fight and kill each other in the name of our god, presumably the same almighty being we call by different names: Allah or Jehovah or God or Yahweh or another name entirely. To me, it makes no sense. I cannot envision an almighty being who would be pleased to have humans killing and torturing each other in the name of religion. And yet, historically, religion has been one of the major reasons we’ve shed blood, seized property, and enslaved other humans.

In my view, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can — and must — change the way we treat each other and our planet, if we want to survive as a species.

In this era of instant communication, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, SoAct, and dozens of other social network sites bridge the divide of miles and cultures. Suddenly, we have friends on the other side of the planet — people we would never have known in our entire span of time on this earth. We’ve connected electronically, but we wouldn’t recognize these people  on the street.

Through social networks, we come to know our electronic friends as real people, who live, breathe, love, hurt, rejoice, sing, work, cry, and play. We learn just how much they are like us, even as their religions, cultures, and daily lives are different from our own. If we are open to it, we can even befriend individuals whose nations are warring with our own. We can create an atmosphere for peace, one friend at a time.

I’m especially grateful for Facebook as I start this new decade. It has brought me friends in nations I’ve only read about. I have a new “daughter” in Palestine, a dear young woman who has “adopted” me as I have “adopted” her. I am getting to know what she cares about, what scares her, and what she loves. Likewise, she is learning about me and my family.

Two young men also call me “mama,” one in Bangladesh and one in Italy. What’s it like in the US? they want to know. Then, What’s it like in your country? I ask in return. Like young people everywhere, they want desperately to find someone to love. We’ve had a lot of heart-to-heart talks about life, dating, and relationships, much as I have spoken with my own young-adult children. I can only imagine their parts of the world, as they imagine mine. But we have a bond of friendship.

Another young friend, a university student who lives in Pakistan, feels devoid of hope. His heart is broken, and he says there’s nothing for him to live for. Besides the loss of his love to an arranged marriage the girl cannot avoid, there are suicide bombers attacking his city, making his daily life a waking nightmare. I reach out with comfort, but I’m not there, and I don’t really know what to say to make him feel better. I feel his pain, as I would feel the pain of any friend I cared for; yet, I’ve never even seen his face.

We all have worries and fears, wherever we live. We are not so different, whether we are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Wiccan, agnostic, atheist — or observe any other religion or tradition. Another new friend today declared his wish that the world will become “one family, whatever the religions, thoughts, traditions, and ethnicity.” I share his hope.

But, it is critically important to remember, as another young man from India wrote today, “All should know that to change the world, we must start from ourself.” He was writing about climate change, but his words apply equally well to making peace on earth a reality.

Will you join me in making 2010 a year of peace and understanding as we also work to preserve the world we share?
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Julia Wasson

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