One year ago, I started volunteering like thousands of other New Yorkers, to assist the grieving and help those in need. I spent many long days at the Family Assistance Center, comforting thousands of distraught relatives and helping to coordinate over 500 chaplains. I also spent many long hours blessing and praying with exhausted rescue workers at Ground Zero, as well as joining in vigils and protests against the war. Those days and months were traumatic and overwhelming.
But the great lesson of September 11th for me is not just the call to show more compassion and love to one another; not just the reminder how precious life is; not just the importance of remembering the dead of New York, DC and Pennsylvania, but the urgent necessity of speaking out against war in the hope that no one should ever suffer such violence again, from anyone, including ourselves.
When we remember 9/11, we also remember the 50 people killed while attending a wedding a few months ago in Afghanistan. We also remember the thousands of Iraqi children killed by our sanctions in recent months. We also remember the hundreds of Palestinians shot and killed by U.S. weapons and Israeli soldiers.
The World Trade Towers fell on the world’s poor long ago. Their lives have been one long Ground Zero. From Vietnam to El Salvador to Nicaragua to South Africa, the poor have suffered and died from the fallout from our first world greed. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, they were simply vaporized.
Today, they continue to suffer and die from our terrorism, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Colombia and around the world.
Yes, September 11th was horrific and unimaginable, but it was the direct consequence of our global militarism. Until we reverse the direction of our nation, dismantle our own nuclear weapons, stop our wars around the world, abolish poverty and start feeding and serving suffering humanity, we are doomed to suffer further acts of terrorism. Everyone in New York knows this. There is no security in war or weapons. We are more vulnerable than ever. The only security we have is in disarmament and justice, in God’s way of peace.
Our government and its media are obsessed with war, with maintaining our imperial control over the world’s resources, with continuing to hold the world hostage with our nuclear weapons. They will never reverse their course until we ordinary Americans begin more and more to speak out and demand change.
We all know this, but we all get discouraged. We all have moments when we want to give up, give in to despair and run away from the task at hand.
But this is the moment in history that God has put us in. We are called to work for disarmament. In this culture of war, we are all called to be prophets of peace. In this culture of violence, we are all called to be apostles of nonviolence. In this culture of systemic injustice, we are all called to be advocates of justice.
We have to carry on the work of the abolitionists and the suffragettes, the labor and civil rights movements, the peace and human rights movements. We stand on the legacy of great people like William Lloyd Garrison and Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King Jr. and Fannie Lou Hamer, Dorothy Day and A.J. Muste.
Our task is like theirs-to speak the truth of peace, to denounce war, to announce the vision of a new future without nuclear weapons, war, terrorism, starvation, sanctions, bombing raids, military aid, weapons sales, executions, corporate greed, poverty and Pentagons.
On this anniversary, as Mother Jones once said, we pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living. We pledge to speak out against our government’s wars, no matter what their excuse, no matter how just the cause appears, no matter how patriotic they portray mass murder. We will continue to come together and build a grassroots movement that someday will flourish and become contagious.
For the rest of our lives, we will speak out for peace. We will not be silent. We will not give in to the lie of war. We will remember the great truth, that we were created to live in love, peace and justice with all peoples.
If we are faithful to the task of speaking out, some day the truth of peace will be revealed.