It is September 2010, the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, and where do we find ourselves? In the news lately is the Islamic Community Center and mosque that is to be built near ground zero, which has become a lightning rod for a range of opinions showing both the faces of the Welcoming America that values and respects diversity, and the darker Intolerant America. Many media outlets continue to pitch us a vision of Muslims as extremist followers of a radical Islam bent on violence and the destruction of our culture – but what is the vision that we know is true, and how do we use this as a chance to promote unity?
In the months following September 11th, 2001, human dignity advocates came together in regional forums across the state to discuss how the resulting events after Sept. 11th would impact their local organizing work. Educate, Reflect Act! Connecting The Dots: Local to Global Response in the Aftermath of September 11 was the theme. Literally hundreds of activists from around the state came together and developed strategies to respond to this moment- from community dialogues to media messaging strategies to Congressional watch on the 9/11 aftermath of legislation.
After 9 years of the war on terror, human dignity advocates continue to use the strategies we discussed at those forums back in 2001 to get to the heart of these kinds of issues, overcoming false divisions created by media and political posturing, and finding ways to strengthen the culture of justice and solidarity that we are creating.
In Washington County, the Bilal Mosque has held an open house around the anniversary of Sept. 11th. This year, due to the controversy over the Islamic Center construction, they not only advertised a general event in the paper, but reached out to their interfaith allies and supporters to increase attendance and send an even stronger message on "who we are as a nation in general and who we are as Oregonians."
—-> From Clatsop County, Carol Newman of ROP member group Columbia Pacific Alliance for Social Justice, wrote and circulated a letter describing how she chose to spend the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with an interfaith community.
We hope you enjoy the letter – included below – and we welcome stories from your groups about steps your human dignity group is taking to keep justice alive in rural Oregon.
With thanks for sustaining our movement,
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Sunday, September 12th, 2010
Yesterday 9/11 I spent several hours at a Peace Vigil at Rizwan Mosque. The congregants had reached out to some of their friends in the interfaith community including P’nai Or, the Jewish Renewal congregation of which I am a member. At our New Year services and earlier online, we were encouraged to join in solidarity. The experience was moving, empowering, joyful, tearful, as ~300 people of many backgrounds sat together and listened to folks from the Ecumenical Council, the Interfaith group, two Buddhist congregations, a Lutheran and a Methodist pastor, a Jewish rabbi, lay leaders from my congregation and of course from Rizwan mosque.
They were overwhelmed with the turnout and the spirit. I sat in the lower parking lot with ~150 folks and a broadcast speaker, greeting neighbors, new faces, old friends and hopeful, energized folks. They told of September 2001 when they arrived to find their mosque surrounded by flowers after some frightening phone calls and actions. And now, surrounded by people coming together to make a statement and a better world.
The community building continued last night at P’nai Or (my group but without me) with an interfaith Havdalah service, which was packed, including some of the new friends from earlier in the day. And today, folks will gather at Bilal mosque.
The Oregonian announced the Rizwan gathering front page Friday; the TV cameras were there Sat morning and afternoon. I hope they send out the news of people coming together to inspire others to Stand Up for Peace and Justice as well.