Throughout this non-stop busy day, I’ve been remembering 9/11 fourteen years ago. I’d been doing some work from home with a morning show in the background before heading to the church office when the terrible, tragic events of the day began to unfold. With a sick knot in my stomach, I gathered up my work bag and grabbed my 5-inch TV to carry to the office. Like many of you, I was glued to the news that day, watching and praying.
I remember one of my Muslim neighbors saying that day, “O, Fran. We’re so sorry.” As if my gentle, loving neighbors could have had anything to do with that act of terror. They couldn’t comprehend what happened that day any more than I could—how anyone, in the name of God/Allah/religion/faith could perpetrate such a thing.
We sent out a group email to the church list, and a group of us gathered that evening in the sanctuary to search for a word from God in the midst of the pain and terror, to hold hands, to weep together, and to pray.
We received a poster via email that read, “This is a hate free zone.” We printed several and posted them on the church doors. Over the next few days, Muslim neighbors, some of whom were staying very close to home until they felt safe, would ask if they could come into our Presbyterian church and pray. Some of them lit candles for peace. I think they all felt safe and welcome in our sanctuary.
During the weeks and months that followed, people of faith from the Dearborn area and beyond gathered together in various houses of worship, in churches and mosques. We shared our grief and pain, heard religious and community leaders struggle to share some wisdom, prayed, and looked for a way to move forward in hope.
Out of the terrible loss of that day fourteen years ago, out of the ashes and fear came a new or renewed commitment to work together to build bridges of understanding in our communities. Several of our local mosques held open houses and invited the neighborhood to come and learn more about Islam. The church I serve, Littlefield Presbyterian Church, had the first of a series of Muslim-Christian Dialogue Days. We began with an interfaith worship service in the morning, a time for lunch and conversation, and afternoon presentations from religious and community leaders.
As a result of the interfaith and peacemaking work by various congregations and our Dearborn Area Ministerial Association (later Dearborn Area Interfaith Network), we have grown and strengthened relationships. These relationships helped us to work together to respond effectively as a community when outside anti-Muslim activists like Terry Jones, Acts 19, and the “Bible Believers” with their pig head on a stick came to town trying to cause dissension.
The Interfaith Prayers for Peace that we will hold on Sunday, September 20 at Littlefield Presbyterian Church is our latest effort to bring people together, to celebrate our unity and diversity, to find common ground, and to pray together for peace in our communities, in our nation, and the world. All are welcome.