The Common Good


Sojomail - September 12, 2001

               S P E C I A L   E D I T I O N

           Promoting values at the crossroads where
           spirituality, politics, and culture meet

                 Brought to you by SojoNet
              Publisher of Sojourners magazine


        In response to the tragic terrorist attack on
        the United States yesterday, we are sending
        out a special edition of SojoMail today.


++++++++++++++++++++ 12-September-2001 ++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *The faceless enemy

 H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
     *A religious response to terrorism

 R e l i g i o n   a n d   S o c i e t y
     *The churches respond

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Cain't no one know at sunrise 

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *Please, say it ain't so PLO

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *Religious violence - a betrayed mission

 B o o m e r a n g
     *Another "Letter to America"


Q u o t e  o f  t h e  W e e k

"I just saw my two towers fall. I'm devastated
beyond belief. This is significantly worse than
Pearl Harbor, and we don't know who the enemy is."

            -- Lewis Eisenberg, chairman of the
               Port Authority of New York and
               New Jersey, which is responsible
               for the World Trade Building.


H e a r t s   &   M i n d s
A Religious Response to Terrorism

The following is a statement from me and several other 
American religious leaders in response to what happened 
yesterday. It will go out tomorrow to religious leaders 
across the country (with an invitation to join the list 
of signatories) and to the press. My hope is that SojoMail 
readers will find this statement both helpful and useful. 
We invite you to disseminate this as widely as you feel is 
appropriate as we all seek to bind up the nation's wounds 
and respond to this horrendous tragedy.


We, American religious leaders, share the broken hearts of our 
fellow citizens. The worst terrorist attack in history that 
assaulted New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania
has been felt in every American community.  Each life lost was 
of unique and sacred value in the eyes of God, and the 
connections Americans feel to those lives run very deep. In 
the face of such a cruel catastrophe, it is a time to look 
to God and to each other for the strength we need and the 
response we will make. We must dig deep to the roots of our 
faith for sustenance, solace, and wisdom.

First, we must find a word of consolation for the untold 
pain and suffering of our people. Our congregations will 
offer their practical and pastoral resources to bind up 
the wounds of the nation. We can become safe places to 
weep and secure places to begin rebuilding our shattered 
lives and communities. Our houses of worship should become 
public arenas for common prayer, community discussion, 
eventual healing, and forgiveness.

Second, we offer a word of sober restraint as our nation 
discerns what its response will be. We share the deep 
anger toward those who so callously and massively destroy 
innocent lives, no matter what the grievances or injustices 
invoked. In the name of God, we too demand that those 
responsible for these utterly evil acts be found and brought 
to justice.  Those culpable must not escape accountability. 
But we must not, out of anger and vengeance, indiscriminately 
retaliate in ways that bring on even more loss of innocent 
life. We pray that President Bush and members of Congress 
will seek the wisdom of God as they decide upon the 
appropriate response.
Third, we face deep and profound questions of what this 
attack on America will do to us as a nation. The 
terrorists have offered us a stark view of the world 
they would create, where the remedy to every human 
grievance and injustice is a resort to the random and 
cowardly violence of revenge - even against the most 
innocent. Having taken thousands of our lives, attacked 
our national symbols, forced our political leaders to 
flee their chambers of governance, disrupted our work 
and families, and struck fear into the hearts of our 
children, the terrorists must feel victorious. 

But we can deny them their victory by refusing to 
submit to a world created in their image. Terrorism 
inflicts not only death and destruction but also 
emotional oppression to further its aims. We must not 
allow this terror to drive us away from being the people 
God has called us to be.  We assert the vision of 
community, tolerance, compassion, justice, and the 
sacredness of human life, which lies at the heart 
of all our religious traditions. America must be 
a safe place for all our citizens in all their 
diversity. It is especially important that our 
citizens who share national origins, ethnicity, 
or religion with whoever attacked us are, 
themselves, protected among us.

Our American illusion of invulnerability has been 
shattered.  From now on, we will look at the world 
in a different way, and this attack on our life as 
a nation will become a test of our national 
character. Let us make the right choices in 
this crisis - to pray, act, and unite against 
the bitter fruits of division, hatred, and 
violence. Let us rededicate ourselves to 
global peace, human dignity, and the eradication 
of the injustice that breeds rage and vengeance.

As we gather in our houses of worship, let us begin 
a process of seeking the healing and grace of God.

Initiating Signers:

Rev. Jim Wallis
Call to Renewal and Sojourners

Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
Reformed Church of America

Rabbi David Saperstein
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Dr. Bob Edgar
National Council of Churches

Dr. Ron Sider
Evangelicals for Social Action

Respond to this statement in an online forum at:

R e l i g i o n   a n d   S o c i e t y
The Churches Respond

SojoNet has compiled a list of statements from church
leaders and communities from around the world responding
to this week's tragedy. Read them at:

Also listed are suggested actions and thoughtful 
reflections that provide an alternative to the 
near-monolithic calls for war and military 
retaliation provided by the mainstream press.





S o u l   W o r k s

My Lord Called Me This Morning 
by Rose Marie Berger

I woke Tuesday morning at 5 a.m. with a powerful voice 
calling me to pray. The quote in my Book of Hours said 
this: "Every morning lean thine arms awhile upon the 
windowsill of heaven and gaze upon the Lord. Then, with 
the vision in thy heart, turn strong to meet thy day." 
I am tremendously grateful for that vision of heaven, 
because by 9 a.m. we would all be looking upon the 
vision of hell. Planes crashing. People jumping out of 
100 story buildings. City walls collapsing. Cell phones 
ringing in rubble. Maiming, injury, and death too 
horrific for the eyes of innocents to describe. Blood 
and ash.

It is often said that Sunday morning at 11 a.m. is the 
most segregated hour of the week. Let us make THIS SUNDAY, 
September 16, the most public, visible, integrated day 
our communities have ever seen. Toll the church bells. 
Organize a public interfaith prayer vigil, possibly 
with a local mosque. Hold public funerals for the 
unknown numbers who have died. Denounce violence in 
all its forms. Buy an ad for peace and healing in the 
Sunday paper. Tell politicians and business and community 
leaders to take a stand for justice and against revenge. 
Give blood. Donate money to relief agencies. Show love 
for enemies, thereby heaping coals upon their heads.

Tuesday night I gathered with neighbors and friends at 
the local church. For 15 minutes the church bell tolled 
through our inner-city Washington, D.C. neighborhood. 
Then a solitary voice sang out in the darkened church: 
"By the waters of Babylon we laid down and wept and 
wept for thee Zion. We remember, we remember, we remember 
thee Zion." As the community joined the round and harmony, 
people wept. Pierced by beauty, the people wept.

For people who walk the Jesus way, and those rooted in a 
deep spiritual faith, the path ahead is clear. We must mourn 
with those who mourn. Weep with those who weep. Offer 
garlands of flowers in place of their garments of ash. 
We must anoint the dead and shout their names from the 
rooftops. We must, as Mother Jones said, fight like hell 
for the living.

Near the close of Tuesday night's prayer service, the 
choir sang Ysayse Barnwell's spiritual "Cain't No One Know." 
I offer it below with verse four altered to address the 
violence of September 11.

Please check for updates on events, 
organizing material, articles, and worship resources.

Cain't no one know at sunrise
how this day is gonna end.
Cain't no one know at sunset
if the next day will begin.

In this world of trouble and woe,
a Christian had better be ready to go.
We look for things to stay the same,
but in the twinkling of an eye, everything can be changed.

Cain't no one know at sunrise
how this day is gonna end.
Cain't no one know at sunset
if the next day will begin.

The troubles of this world fill our hearts with rage
from New York, to Washington, Pennsylvania, and LA
We are searching for hope that lies in God
as we fight against terror at home and abroad.

Cain't no one know at sunrise
how this day is gonna end.
Cain't no one know at sunset
if the next day will begin.

(from URBAN SCENES/CREOLE DREAMS by Y.M. Barnwell(c)1994)


B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
Please say it ain't so, PLO

by David Batstone

Speculation over who was responsible for the
terrorist acts that hit New York and Washington,
D.C., yesterday runs at a fever pitch. The short
list features a series of Islamic political
groups from the Middle East who have embraced
public acts of violence as a useful political
tool. I can't help but be reminded of a
similar diagnosis immediately after the
Oklahoma City bombing. And in that case it
turned out to be terrorists closer to home -
white boys fed on Midwest corn, no less. So
let's not jump to wild conclusions unless
there's ample evidence to support our

One candidate mentioned repeatedly on network
news yesterday was the PLO; so too were a
myriad of other Palestinian groups. I pray
that it isn't true. I do not say so as a
supporter of the PLO any more than I am
a proponent of the aggressive actions of
the state of Israel. Bottom line: I believe
both Israelis and Palestinians have historic
and political rights to their respective
homelands. Both sides have routinely denied
those rights to their enemy, yet Israel has
had more military power to bully its agenda.

All the same, I do still hold a glimmer of hope
that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be
resolved without resort to all-out war. Over
the last year I have noted a shift in a popular
sentiment in U.S. and world opinion. A tide of
sympathy for Palestinians - and repulsion at
the tactics of the Israelis - is rising. The
PLO has helped as well by softening its rhetoric
and its promotion of terrorist strikes.

I just finished reading the autobiography of
Nelson Mandela, titled The Long Walk to Freedom.
Mandela relates how he was constantly being
pushed by more militant members of the ANC to
make violent strikes against the white South
African government. Though Mandela never disavowed
the use of violence, he did recognize that
whatever short-term satisfaction the use of
violence might bring, it would only hurt the
ANC internationally in its attempts to apply
pressure to the South African government for
change. And remember, Mandela had to wait 27
years in prison for that change to come.

If the PLO or other mainstream Palestinian
group was involved in the terrorist attacks of
yesterday, a peaceful resolution of the
political conflict is dead. In fact, I'd
anticipate a rapid and devastating escalation
of military operations against Palestine, and
there's very little we who work for peace will
be able to do to stop it.


        I N T E R F A I T H   S E R V I C E

For those who live in the Washington, D.C. area...

The InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington
is gathering leaders and members of diverse faith 
traditions to pray together in this time of crisis.

Tomorrow (Thursday, September 13) at 10 a.m. 
Healy Hall, Georgetown University
37th and O Streets

For info call (202) 244-3811

Included in the announcement for the service was the 
following statement:

Remembering the false rush to judgment after the bombing 
of the Federal building in Oklahoma City, we urge our 
government officials and all Americans not to rush to 
judgment as to who the perpetrators are, what their motives 
are, and what our response to these terrorist attacks should 
be. Because religion has already been raised as a possible 
motive, the InterFaith Conference strongly deplores the 
misdeeds of those who routinely justify violence on religious 
grounds; not only do their violent actions cause harm to 
people who are the creation of God, but also their 
justifications do violence to the fabric of our respective 
faiths. Our religions teach us the sanctity of human life; 
they apply no veneer of respectability to slaughter carried 
out for personal vengeance or political purpose.


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Religious violence - a betrayed mission

*In 1998, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
listed 30 of the world's most dangerous groups; more
than half were religious. They were Jewish, Muslims, 
and Buddhists. She didn't include Christian militia 
and other paramilitary organizations both within and
outside the United States.

*The Rand-St. Andrews Chronology of International
Terrorism lists 56 terrorist groups as worthy of
fear for their operational capacity; 26 are
identified as religious.


B o o m e r a n g

Barbara Le Rossignol of Melbourne, Australia wrote:

Re: "Letter to America"

Today I woke to weep at the news of the attack on
your country and people. I can only imagine the
shock and pain for those of you so close to the

A few weeks ago I wrote to SojoMail questioning
some of the ways the US behaves as am international
citizen. I had thought it may begin a discussion
about the role both our countries play in the
changing world. For me it was as if I was talking
to a brother about how things should be done
within a family. A freedom that we share. But
now is not time for such reflections. It is a time
to cry and to pray for you all.


The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
of Jerusalem, Israel wrote:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are stunned at the enormous tragedy that hit
the USA yesterday and caused great suffering to
the American people.

As we grieve the loss of so many lives, we share
your sorrow, fear and concern for your loved ones
and all innocent people, victims of hatred and
sick minds. The extent of the catastrophe reveals
the vulnerability and weakness of human beings and
governments in the face of terror.

As Palestinians, who have been victims of terror,
we are appalled at the reports of Palestinians
celebrating your tragedy. Amidst all the pain and
injustice that we have been living through the
past year, we condemn all terrorist crimes that
dehumanize and perpetrate evil. It is important
to realize that once more the media is at work
to divert attention from this terrible calamity
by trying to find scapegoats to blame.

Now is the time to work with more determination
to deal with the root causes that create violence,
a violence that is consuming our world. We pray
for a just peace that will save our world.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of
views. Want to make your voice heard? Send
Boomerang e-mails to the editor:



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