This summer, Rep. Keith Ellison stirred the hearts of thousands at the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly in Minnesota. Rep. Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress, emphasized in his speech the power of our mission of Love to overcome division and promote harmony.
On the 9th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, we offer excerpts from his inspiring words of wisdom, as we remember those who lost their lives, and continue our work to promote freedom and peace.
“There is enough love for you and for me, there is enough for the straight and the gay, there is enough for the people who were born in America and the new immigrants, there is enough for the blacks, there is enough for the whites, there is enough for the Latinos, there is enough for the Asians, there is enough for the Muslims, the Christians, the Jews, the Buddhists, the Hindus. There is enough for everybody.”
- Rep. Keith EllisonMore >
This prayer originally appeared on The Church of the Larger Fellowship.
By the Rev. Meg Riley
Let us be the adults in the room,
The ones who know and feel our fears—
Who know too well the horror of intolerance, mobs, violence.
Who don’t allow our fear to fester into bitterness.
Who will never name hate as our final answer.
Let us be the adults in the room,
The ones who don’t call names,
Who don’t simplify or turn people into caricatures.
Who don’t paint with broad brushes and sneers.
Who don’t dismiss complex people with simple judgments.
Let us be the adults in the room,
The ones who step in the way of the bullying.
Who don’t allow name-calling.
Who don’t allow others to turn people into caricatures.
Who stand on the side of love.
Let us be the adults in the room,
The ones who ask questions, who reason.
Who know that truth sets people free.
Who understand when to speak and when to listen.
Who study history’s cruelty and vow, “Never again.”
Let us be the adults in the room,
The ones who know the Holy is too big to name.
Who make room for the wisdom of Allah, Moses,
Who celebrate the life of Krishna, Jesus,
Who glean sacred text from science and nature.
Let us be the adults in the room.
The ones who know that diversity makes us stronger.
Who search for multiple wisdoms,
Who speak many languages,
Who are willing to admit that we need one another.
By Phyllis Schafer Rodriguez and Orlando Rodriguez
We are the parents of Gregory E. Rodriguez who was killed in the attacks on the WTC 9 years ago. Out of this tragedy we have been fortunate to be able to open up to new experiences that have enriched our lives, and have tried to use our voices to contribute to peace in a small way. But peace is not just an absence of war and violence; humanity and respect for other’s ideas, religions, customs, etc., must all be present for peace to succeed. And one of the best ways to accomplish these goals is to reach out to people who are different from us, i.e., “the other”.
Among the new experiences we have had since losing Greg has been getting to know people we might never have met otherwise. Several of them are Muslims and Muslim Americans. To our knowledge, we had never known a Muslim person before 2002. We were aware that there were Muslims living in our community in the metro New York area, but had had very limited contact. After the attacks, the decision was made by Muslim organizations to teach their neighbors the true meaning of Islam and how it relates to Judaism and Christianity. It was through these interfaith and intercultural programs and invitations that our sensitivity to the scary and difficult position of anyone looking Middle Eastern or Arab finds him or herself in today. We’ve learned stories of exile, immigration, disenfranchisement and pain. We’ve learned that we have more in common as human beings than what makes us different. We have learned the power of love through grief – by recognizing the suffering of all people, including families of the suicide pilots who use airplanes as deadly weapons.
The so-called “Mosque at Ground Zero” controversy has moved people of conscience to uphold the principles of freedom of religion and expression. NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg has become a champion of the first amendment. But many public figures and ordinary people have expressed hatefulness, venom and prejudice in the media and on the internet. And they pretend to be speaking for us, family members of victims. They are so “sensitive” to our feelings that they insult others in their mission to ban the center.
Would these expressions of hate be possible if we all knew Muslims personally? We think not. If your neighbor, co-worker, doctor or school teacher were Muslim, would you be able to categorically condemn an entire group? We think not.
We feel that the old saying, “Think globally and act locally” should guide us. It can translate into our welcoming Muslims and people we might not otherwise meet to our communities. Include them in local events, worship services, activities. This is an important part of working for peace and, in the words of your group, standing on the side of love.
As a result of our article in support of Islamic Cultural Center, we have been invited to be on a panel at Congregation Kol Ami, the reform temple in White Plains, on the afternoon of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Although I, Phyllis, am a secular Jew, it means a lot to me to talk about why I support the Center and the proposed location. Orlando is a Christian. We will join Talat Hamdani, who lost her son, too, that day and is a Muslim, and Ann Schaffer, of the American Jewish Committee on the panel. We will have the opportunity to present our points of view to members of the congregation and community. We know we will learn a lot from the experience.
Visions of a Tolerant America:
Jewish, Muslim and Christian voices discuss an Islamic Center near Ground Zero
On Yom Kippur, September 18, at 3-4:30 p.m.
Congregation Kol Ami
Chapel in the Woods
252 Soundview Avenue
White Plains, NY 10606
There will be a panel presentation, group discussion and text study of the Yom Kippur reading of the Book of Jonah.
- Talat Hamdani, Orlando and Phyllis Schafer Rodriguez, bereaved parents and members of September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
- Ann Schaffer, director of the Belfer Center for American Pluralism, American Jewish Committee
- Rabbi Shira Milgrom, Congregation Kol Ami.
For directions or information see website at www.nykolami.org
Sponsored by Kol Ami’s Interfaithful Committee
September 11th is rapidly approaching and with it a painful reminder of the forces that seek to divide us. I have followed the media coverage of the minister in Florida that plans to burn the Quran on this anniversary of the attacks on the United States. I am still a bit stunned that one person, with a congregation of only 50 people, could garner such attention. But I suppose the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only think that ever has” apply to any small group of committed citizens. I wonder though, how thoughtful they really are?
I know that we all act from our own values and beliefs. I know that we all seek like-minded people — people who share our views and values with whom we can socialize and spend time. I have heard that often enough in our own churches and fellowships. When I hear it, it always makes me a bit uneasy. If I sought only like minded people, who would challenge me on my assumptions and biases? Who would question my thinking and offer a new frame, or perspective?
Being with like-minded people is comforting especially for those who live and work in conservative areas. For some it is a relief because the challenge comes everyday from co-workers, family and even friends. I wonder, though, if the challenge is real; if we can take it beyond the rhetoric and invite others to really engage in dialogue. I wonder if we can accept the differences and celebrate our common human bond. The Dalai Lama is my hero.
I wrote in a previous blog post that America has not had an opportunity to heal from the pain and trauma of the 9/11 attacks and, as a result, we continue to suffer. Burning the Quran is not a way to heal our wounds, but I believe it is an attempt, albeit horrifically misguided, to do just that. Revenge is a human reaction to pain. It is a reaction that is motivated by powerlessness and the desire to feel or be powerful again. A vengeful response is rarely effective as each side justifies their actions. The cycle of revenge and retribution continues, escalating with each perceived slight and reaction. It is, I believe, a base response, and not a thoughtful spiritual response.
No one wants to feel powerless and this “pastor” in Florida has clearly tapped a sense of that in his small congregation. It seems he believes he has found a way to restore their power. And yet, he will do what so many have done before — he will continue the cycle of violence and hatred to make himself and his followers “feel” better. But experience and history shows us that feeling is sustained only for a short while. Soon enough they will realize that this action brings only a fleeting and false sense of power and they will not be satisfied. Or, it will bring a response, a “justified” response by those who feel attacked by this action…and so the cycle continues.
To truly overcome our powerlessness, we need to publicly share our sorrow and pain. Not by lashing out, but by crying out, and by crying. Grief is rarely dissipated by anger. In fact, in my experience, anger seems to sometimes interfere in the grief process, holding us hostage to thoughts and desires that we know are not healthy.
America has suffered a great loss. We may never fully know or understand the reasons for the attacks. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. Why is rarely a question that offers satisfactory answers to complicated and very human actions. (A woman abused by an adult is seldom satisfied to know the abuser was also abused, the victim of an attack is seldom satisfied to know the attacker was born into poverty and given few opportunities…) We will probably never be satisfied by any answer to the question why.
Feeling powerless is difficult and making meaning to restore our sense of power is what religion is supposed to do. It’s easy to call these people “monsters” and to dehumanize them, but dehumanizing others is exactly what allowed them to do this violent act in the first place. For me, the meaning in I get gain from these kinds of acts of violence takes the form of a renewed commitment to moving away from judgment and dehumanizing. I understand a sense of meaning to be grounded in the call to move toward a more compassionate and loving response; to treat others with more respect and love. Because I believe that for someone to attack an other with such force and violence, they must feel deeply powerless.
I don’t claim to fully understand the intricacies of Islam. In fact, I have made several attempts at reading the Quran and have found it very challenging. I do know that like any religious text, it can be read with compassion or hatred (and anything in between) as the lens. I know that my religious faith calls me, as the Rev. William Ellery Channing insisted, to read the text with reason as my guide.
I also know that my faith calls me to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all people. My faith calls me to affirm and promote a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. My faith calls me to reflect deeply on my own life and my own actions and to consider how those actions affect others and the world around me. A responsible search requires self-reflection. A responsible search requires compassion.
The Dove World Outreach Center will probably go through with their plans. I can only feel deep sadness for them because I know it will not satisfy them; it will not restore their sense of power. That restoration can only happen in the heart by opening to the power of love that permeates the universe.
Our Association of Congregations may be small, but if we are truly thoughtful and committed, if we are willing to truly stand on the side of love, we just might change the world.
Rev. Paul Langston-Daley
West Valley Unitarian Universalist Church
The next few days carry profound spiritual weight for many Americans.
Across the country, Jews are celebrating Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year, and the beginning of the High Holidays. During this time, Jews seek our true spiritual center through reflection, rest, introspection, congregation, prayer, and redemption.
Muslims will be marking Eid-Al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. Eid al-Fitr celebrates the purification achieved by a month of sunrise-to-sunset fasting, one of the five pillars of Islam. Normally, Eid al-Fitr is marked by several days of festivities, but sadly, many Muslim Americans are feeling cautious about celebration given the holiday’s proximity to Sept. 11.
Indeed, on Saturday, millions of people will again feel the weight of the memories from the coordinated terrorist suicide attacks upon the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. The vast majority of Americans will find constructive ways to mark this somber occasion, but a few extremists will seek to divide this country by attacking Muslims, even going so far as to burn the Quran.
It’s not too late to stand on the side of love, at this moment in time, when love is what our country needs most. Click here to find a solidarity service, public worship, interfaith gathering, or peace event near you:
Thankfully, those of us who speak the language of love are putting messages of harmony, community, freedom, and peace into the world. Over the next few days, countless clergy will deliver sermons about Islamaphobia and read messages from the Quran. Vigils, marches, and rallies will remember those lost in the 9-11 attacks while also speaking out for religious freedom. Interfaith worship services and gatherings will take place across the country, from Florida to California, offering a call to end the anti-Muslim sentiments that have swept the nation.
In the face of the negativity we have seen directed towards Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim, these public witnesses of interfaith solidarity, and the outpourings of support, are inspiring.
With love we are turning the tides.
To those who are celebrating the Jewish New Year, Standing on the Side of Love wishes you Shana Tova.
To those celebrating the end of Ramadan, we wish you Eid Mubarak.
To all who lend this campaign your hearts, day in and day out, we wish you, above all else, great love.
With blessings for a sweet new season upon us…
Standing on the Side of Love