As we come up on another anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001 I find myself feeling overwhelmed, sad and ashamed.
I look at the news and see churches with plans to burn the Qur’an, I see a planned Islamic community center near the site of ground zero in New York City attacked, and threats made against other Mosques throughout the United States. Islamophobia is on the rise and the hate crimes that go with it have not surprisingly risen as well.
This occurs against a back drop of a continued war against Afghanistan and (in spite of the official message that “it’s over”) in Iraq. (And countless other places) Meanwhile, here in the United States unemployment continues to increase and with it the gap between the rich and the poor; as we spend our resources on death and destruction rather than uplifting human life and dignity.
Yet, we know we must do something to stand against violence. We know it when we think about how time and again the world as watched in horror as ethnic cleansing campaigns were carried out and said “never again.” We, as human beings have the responsibility to stop this.
We know it when we look back on the events of Sept. 11, 2001. We must stand against terrorism.
But must this mean more terrorism? Endless war? Vengeance?
There must be another way! Where a century ago 90% of those killed were combatants today estimates found in just a quick internet search put civilian casualties anywhere from 75 to almost 90%. Clearly, this also something we have a responsibility to change.
Ironically, part of the answer also can be found on a Sept. 11th day. September 11, 1906,
On that day Mohandas Gandhi, a 37 year old lawyer from India who had been in South Africa for 13 years, began a movement that would transform him, and mobilize the Indian community to nonviolently oppose racially degrading legislation. On that day he convened a meeting at the Empire Theater in Johannesburg. Those present solemnly declared, despite the consequences, to practice “ahimsa” or the absence of any violence, and resist injustice such as the racially degrading pass laws. Thus, the word “satyagraha” was coined, meaning truth (satya), which implies love, and firmness (agraha) which serves as a synonym for force.
Many this day will pause and reflect on the tragic events of September 11, 2001. But let us not stop there; let us rather resolve to learn the lessons of September 11, 1906.
Let us break the cycle of violence.
Gather with others, reflect on the teachings of Gandhi and the lessons of the many stories of nonviolence working to bring about change, and stop injustice. Commit to resolve personal conflicts nonviolently and actively work to encourage the use of nonviolent solutions to conflicts at community, national, and international levels. Work for Justice knowing that real peace cannot happen in the absence of justice.
As Michael Nagler points out in : Hope or Terror? Gandhi and the Other 9/11 : “Two September 11ths like signs on a path pointing in different directions.”
Which direction will we choose? What will you do to honor your choice?
I will honor my choice by supporting organization that offers a real alternative to militarism, and endless war. An organization that is putting into place Gandhi’s dream of a Shanti Sena,(“peace army” ) and in doing so offers the world a real choice in how we stand against violence, terrorism, and ethnic cleansing.
Michigan Peace Team (MPT) http://www.michiganpeaceteam.org/ trains everyday people in nonviolence and nonviolent civilian conflict intervention. We place violence reduction peace teams both within the United States and internationally. I have been volunteering my time, and donating my dollars to this organization for several years and I would love to invite you to join me!
Currently we have international teams in place in Palestine and in Juarez, Mexico. These teams are making a difference working with local people to intervene in violence and using the skills of nonviolence protect human life and human rights. Get that? We are standing up against violence, terrorism and hatred without weapons, and vengeance and endless war!
And we are doing it here at home too! We are creating the world we want to exist by living it: a world where conflict and confrontation are healthy and inevitable and can occur with a mutual respect for human rights and dignity; a world where voluntary cooperation, egalitarian relationships, solidarity and mutual aid are the norm. We are creating a world where we can reclaim our communities – no matter if we are reclaiming them from gangs and drug dealers or corporations and law enforcement that too often are more accountable to the prison industrial complex than their communities.
And so, to honor my choice – to honor the direction I want to move in I pledge to continue to donate my money and my time to Michigan Peace Team. See I start to write about it and already I feel better! More energized, and hopeful. I feel less afraid, and more empowered. So, I hope you will check out MPT too! ) http://www.michiganpeaceteam.org/ Get involved, bring me to visit and facilitate a nonviolence training. Make a donation
But, beyond that I hope you will do something to honor your own choice. What speaks to your heart? Where does your hope get renewed? There are so many worthwhile organizations that could make good use of your gift. You could send a donation (your wages for the day or some other amount), volunteer your time and talents, or help in so many ways.
Rent the movie Gandhi, or the documentary A Force More Powerful, check out groups like Michigan Peace Team, Nonviolent Peaceforce, Peace Brigades International, Christian Peacemaker Teams or other groups such as this who are building on Gandhi’s dream of a Shanti Sena
This September 11th – choose peace.
In Peace , Sheri