11 Days in September Seeds of September #5

Dear Friends,

Some more seeds for "11 Days in September," varied ways of commemorating 9/11. They range from some plans of local groups that draw on our proposal for a "Waterside" spiritual practice to the plans of a national network — Global Exchange/ United for Peace — to focus the 9/11 anniversary on preventing war; to a partnership between the Disciples of Christ and the Islamic Society of North America in sponsoring volunteer work-and-service days on September 11.

Please send us information on your own plans, and check our Website for additional reports from around the country.



Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director
The Shalom Center

In Morrisville, PA, a group from Jewish, Christian, and Muslim congregations gathered to talk about an interfaith event around the one-year anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. The Spirit of God was powerfully present in the meeting.

We reviewed a proposal suggested by Rabbi Arthur Waskow in his plan for "11 Days in September", the one concerning water, that interfaith groups would gather at riversides all over the country and reflect on some of the properties of water. We decided to feature the following:

1. We will gather on the Delaware River north of Yardley PA at the state boating ramp at 6:15 Monday, September 9th, and we will be led to meditate on how we see our reflection in water; similarly Sept. 11, 2001 should enable us to see ourselves better — what have we learned about who we are? Also, like water, each of us sees our own reflection in the face of the other, particularly the stranger, the one different from ourselves — can we learn more about ourselves from those we live with who are of another faith? What do we learn about ourselves from observing how others of our own faith act? ("A Muslim is a mirror to another Muslim," a saying goes.)

2. We will share with each other in discussion groups of 10 or so people what we have discovered in the past weeks as we have reflected on the questions which were distributed last night (and will be mailed to you) about how our religious traditions have lent themselves to religiously-motivated discrimination or violence or, conversely, how they have helped make us more compassionate and open to others and building of community.

3. We will draw on a Jewish ritual of casting bread or pebbles into the river, in recognition of how we need to turn away from practices which divide us from one another and create hostility and turn toward new, upbuilding ways.

4. We can share stories from our different traditions about water

5. We may end with something of a candlelight vigil

    * the list of reflection questions and a sample response from a Christian perspective

    * articles by local and other Jewish, Muslim, and Christian thinkers about self-criticism and growth in our ability to live together with others.

Al Kra


Across the nation, September 11, 2002 is becoming a day of service and volunteerism in remembrance of lives lost in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 terrorist tragedies. "9-11: Respond To The Call," an effort coordinated by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), asks its congregations to invite other churches, mosques, synagogues, and other culture-centric or service-oriented groups to work together within their communities, adding the elements of action and unity to their prayerful response.

Disciples President Richard L. Hamm and Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, General Secretary of the Islamic Society of North America, have joined together in their call for Muslims and Disciples to...

"...begin seeking opportunities to build bridges of understanding and tolerance in every neighborhood as we reach out to persons of all religious faiths working together — — side by side — -to meet the needs of our local communities. Let us affirm together the sacredness of all human life... be makers of peace by reaching out in loving service... be beacons of hope, offering prayers of healing and truly living as neighbors..."
— from an official statement issued by Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, Ph.D. and Rev. Dr. Richard L. Hamm

Groups affiliated with both organizations from Honolulu to Baltimore are enacting volunteer work days on September 11. In Washington, the Islamic Mosque is working with several Protestant denominations, Beth Sholom-Synagogue, and the League of Women Voters on missions as varied as cleaning the Yakima River to serving food at a local Compassion Center. Several Disciples congregations in Florida have partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build three homes on that day. Disciples churches in Oregon have recruited students from a state university to help rehabilitate a church in disrepair. Landscaping, boarding up vacant inner-city houses, and sorting food donations are just a few of the other tasks that volunteer teams are tackling.

In Texas, The Community Christian Church is sharing a Communion service with an Hispanic congregation, at which they're asking for an offering of new or usable tools for use in mission work. The pastor, Reverent David E. Cobb, said that the program's "...three-fold theme of 'pray, act, and unite' will be evident as we worship together in two languages, and offer symbols of rebuilding for use in new mission projects."

The program encourages individuals to rally co-workers and friends to participate; perhaps even find additional projects they can tackle. There are opportunities for all ages — from children to the oldest members — to make a difference, small or significant. There are no limits to who "Responds To The Call," nor how they choose to do so.

This effort began with the sentiments of a Catonsville woman who lost her child, Honor Elizabeth Wainio, during the hijacking of United Flight 93:

"What those people are doing [working in soup kitchens, building homes, working with underprivileged children and in sub-standard housing projects] is what we all should be doing in response to my daughter's death and the death of thousands on September 11. Please tell them for me, 'thank you...' I do not want revenge ... I want peace."
— Esther Heymann

For free, downloadable publicity material, to get ideas for projects, to share plans, or to read the official statement released by Drs. Hamm and Syeed, please visit the www.RespondToTheCall.org. For additional information," contact Hillary Wright at 1-816-210-9698.

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On September 8 as part of the Brandywine Community's regular 2nd Sunday of the month potluck and program (4:30pm, University Lutheran Church, 3637 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA) we will be holding (instead of a regular program) a time of reflection — "The Road Not Taken: Peace" with music, poetry, and reflections on the theme.

The time at the church will be followed a walk to the 30th St. Bridge on Market St. (and here's where your reflective process comes) for a Ceremony of Memory, Peace, & Light over the river. It's built around the symbols of the casting of ashes (honoring the victims of war and terror, and remembering our own vulnerability) and stones (our hardness of heart, indifference to suffering, and belief in violence and war) into our troubled waters (and as a mirror of ourselves). There will be some readings, some music, a litany.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C., July 24 — The 1,100 students who attend Earlham College in West Richmond, Ind., can expect to spend at least part of Sept. 10 in workshops that recreate what they were thinking and doing on that date last year — and considering, in hindsight, how narrow their views of the world were.

In Normal, Ill., the 150 students at the high school, like those at dozens of high schools in other states, will set aside five days around Sept. 11 for a course developed at Brown University that discusses questions like the differences between a freedom fighter and a suicide bomber.

At the University of North Carolina here, all 3,500 freshmen will be required to read excerpts from the Koran, unless they write an essay to request an exemption, to prepare for small two-hour discussion groups that all are expected to attend, beginning late next month.

Across the country this summer, colleges, high schools and even a few elementary schools plan to confront and commemorate the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in ways that they say would have been impossible in the emotional time immediately afterward. The forums will afford students and teachers opportunities to explore subjects like Islam and terrorism and to debate the merits of the United States' actions around the world before and after Sept. 11.

Such plans have not come easily. School and community officials have spent hours agonizing over how to deal with those topics with sensitivity.

"There are some who say that we have to maintain some respect for the dead by not asking these questions," said Kelly Keogh, an international relations teacher at the high school in Normal, 100 miles south of Chicago. "But aren't we doing them a better service by not giving simplistic answers?"

Last fall and spring, Mr. Keogh said, he and his colleagues spent so much time dealing with students' feelings that there was little chance to discuss United States policy in Afghanistan, for example. Now, he said, enough time has passed to embark on a more substantive approach.

Many school officials have contacted their counterparts in New York City and have been surprised to learn that no elaborate plans have been made there. The New York Board of Education, after consulting child psychologists, is advising principals to observe the date in the most unobtrusive way possible.

"There are students here who witnessed tremendous trauma, not just on television or in ripples, but by seeing what happened or facing their own personal losses," said Francine Goldstein, chief executive of school support services for the city's Board of Education. "All of this can drag up some very difficult symbolism for both the children and the staff."

As students lined up this week in Chapel Hill to buy copies of "Approaching the Qu'ran," a translation of 35 selections from the Koran, with commentary, a lawsuit was filed to absolve them of their reading assignment. On Monday, two members of a Virginia-based Christian group, the Family Policy Network, and three unnamed freshmen sued in Federal District Court in Greensboro, saying the university had violated the separation of church and state by making the book required reading.

The president of the group, Joe Glover, said he was particularly worried about the essays that students would have to write to be exempted from discussing the Koran.

"Can you imagine an 18-year-old little girl required to bring a sheet of paper to a discussion group defending her most deeply held beliefs?" Mr. Glover asked. "How can that be her first academic experience?"

The university chancellor, James Moeser, said reading the Koran was no different from reading the Iliad or Greek myths. "When we do that, nobody ever accuses us of proselytizing Zeus," Mr. Moeser said.

University officials declined to comment on the suit. Lawyers expect a preliminary hearing to be held by the middle of next month.

At Chapel Hill, as at other colleges, freshmen have been asked over each of the last few summers to read the same book at the same time. When panel of professors and students began meeting in January to choose the title for this year, there was immediate consensus for choosing something related to Sept. 11, even though members said they knew that some people would oppose the choice.

On the sprawling campus, where Muslims represent fewer than 1 percent of the student body, several dozen students interviewed this week said that they were proud of the choice.

"For those who say this offends them," said Jen Daum, a major in international and political science who is president of the student body, "I say, `Welcome to college.' "

On the high school and middle school levels, teachers and administrators say the anniversary is a "teachable moment," a time when students will be eager to explore the events and understand their context.

That, in large part, attracted Mr. Keogh and his colleagues to the five-day terrorism curriculum developed by the Choices 21st Century Education program at Brown. More than 1,000 high schools say they intend to use the curriculum, which includes background readings, case studies, examination of cartoons and a simulation involving policy options.

Broaching the subject of Sept. 11 in elementary school requires more delicacy, educators say, but that does not mean the anniversary will not be discussed. Child psychologists at Yale say they have received calls from elementary schools in New York City, as well as in Connecticut, Virginia and Maryland, for advice on the anniversary.

Classes will proceed as scheduled for many school districts and universities, but at least 20 colleges, have canceled classes for Sept. 11 in favor of prayer services and teach-ins.

At Earlham, the most educational activities will be the day before, as professors press students to acknowledge how naive they were on Sept. 10 last year.

"We should be thinking about how we can be change agents," said the college's provost, Len Clark. "We have to think constructively, not just mourn or remember."

Global Exchange/United for Peace has more than 130 peace events planned throughout the U.S. and the world. For details see www.unitedforpeace.org.

— Andrea Buffa

This email contains:

Peace Action's Call for Sept. 9-10 "National Call In Days" to Stop an Attack on Iraq

EXAMPLE: A broad coalition of East Bay peace groups have come together to sponsor a vigil at Oakland's Lake Merritt in memory of the victims of September 11, 2001, and for all victims of the ongoing cycle of violence.)

Similar events are being planned in more than 100 communities throughout the United States. The event titles range from "work a day for peace" to "our grief is not a cry for war" to "from ground zero to common ground," but what ties them together is their theme: working for a world without terrorism and war. "We're going to show the world that in hundreds of U.S. cities, people are saying that the best way to honor those who died on Sept. 11 is to work for a world that is free of war and violence," said Medea Benjamin of United for Peace, the coalition of groups that put out the call for peace events.

The astounding array of events planned throughout the United States and the world are listed on the website www.unitedforpeace.org. They include overnight vigils, peace walks, fasts, concerts, art projects, donating the day's wages to peace groups, and teach-ins about peace issues. The events are taking place from the big cities of New York and Los Angeles to the smaller cities of Boise, Idaho and Hood River, Oregon.

Endorsers of United for Peace include international peace leaders like Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatama Gandhi, and Nobel Peace Laureate and former President of Costa Rica Oscar Arias. "Many people who have lost loved ones to violence have come to the realization that only by planting the seeds of peace will their loss not have been in vain," says Arias. United for Peace is also endorsed by September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, the National Coalition for Peace and Justice, Fellowship of Reconciliation, American Friends Service Committee, Peace Action, Veterans for Peace, War Resisters League, and Global Exchange.

Join the Call-In Days to Stop An Attack on Iraq
September 9 — 10, 2002

As we prepare to honor the victims of September 11, our government prepares for a war on Iraq that will make us less safe, not more. The Bush administration and Congress are anticipating an attack on Iraq, even though Iraq has not attacked us, and we have no evidence that the Iraqi government plans do so. American intelligence agencies have confirmed that there is no evidence that Iraq or Saddam Hussein were involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on the US.

On the days preceding the anniversary of the horrific September 11 attacks, we must put forward a call to Congress: no more innocent victims — whether they be American, Afghan, Iraqi or any nationality.

A US war on Iraq will:

  • Take the lives of US soldiers and many innocent Iraqi civilians
  • Increase anti-American sentiment abroad
  • De-stabilize the Middle East
  • Undermine international cooperation
  • Defy international law including the United Nations (UN) charter

Instead, the US should pursue real solutions that will make us safer:

  • Open new doors for diplomatic alternatives to the current impasse.
  • Lift economic sanctions that target Iraqi civilians.
  • Negotiate, through the UN and other regional systems, a return of weapons inspectors to the country.
  • Support democracy and human rights throughout the Middle East.
  • Strengthen international agreements to reduce weapons of mass destruction.

Please call your members of Congress on September 9 and 10 and urge them to block an attack on Iraq.

Tell your Representative and Senators: an attack on Iraq will not make Americans safer. It will de-stabilize the Middle East and increase anti-American sentiments. We need a foreign policy based on the force of law, not the law of force.

You can find out who represents you at congress.org and can reach you member of Congress by calling the congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Rhetoric seems to be the first tactic in the administration 's plans for war on Iraq, and it 's springing from all corners of Washington: the Pentagon, the White House, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and those incessant leaks to the media. What often falls below the radar, however, is a large and credible current of resistance in the US and oversees.

US allies in Europe and the Arab world are appalled at the prospect of a US "pre-emptive" attack against another sovereign nation. The United States' closest European allies strongly oppose the idea of going after Saddam Hussein in the absence of credible evidence tying him to the Sept 11 attacks.

Nor do our friends in the Arab world welcome the idea of war. Indeed they're fearful. "Loyal Arab allies — including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan — have warned that an attack on Baghdad would make their continued support politically impossible and would risk setting the entire region aflame," notes Jim Lobe, freelance journalist and an advisor to Foreign Policy in Focus.

In an interview with the Washington Post, King Abdullah of Jordan confirmed this sentiment: "Our concern is ... that a miscalculation in Iraq would throw the whole area into turmoil ... In all the years I have been in the international community, everybody is saying this is a bad idea," he said. "If it seems America says we want to hit Baghdad, that's not what Jordanians think, or the British, the French, the Russians, the Chinese and everybody else."

In a recent poll by Britain's Channel 4 news, 52% of respondents opposed British military involvement, and only 34% favored it.

In the words of Scott Ritter, formerly of the United Nations Special Commission that disarmed Iraq after the Gulf War, "The clock is ticking and it's ticking towards war. And it's going to be a real war. It's going to be a war that will result in the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. It's a war that is going to devastate Iraq. It's a war that's going to destroy the credibility of the United States of America."

A number of US legislators question the thoroughness of the administration's planning on this issue. "If you think you're going to drop the 82nd Airborne in Baghdad and finish the job, I think you've been watching too many John Wayne movies, " remarked Senator Chuck Hagel (NE) in the Washington Post in July.

While the potential human costs are most frightening, the war will entail massive financial costs as well. "Since there is no surplus in the budget from which the cost could be paid, there will be trade-offs, making initiatives like Medicare drug coverage harder to do, and there almost certainly will be deeper deficits and more debt," warned Representative John Spratt (SC).

That's not a price worth paying, especially at the expense of US taxpayers and Iraqi civilians. The latter have suffered enough. Over one million Iraqis have died from preventable diseases due to the war and economic sanctions imposed on the country — 500,000 of these have been children under age 5, according to UNICEF. Another war on Iraq would exacerbate the situation and mean death for thousands more.

Even in the most stable of times, a preemptive strike against Iraq would be an irrational and insensitive course of action. Given today's state of international affairs, the implications for such a war are simply calamitous.

"Just open a map," said a member of the Kuwaiti royal family in the New York Times on July 30, 2002. "Afghanistan is in turmoil, the Middle East is in flames, and you want to open a third front in the region? That would truly turn into a war of civilizations."