No One Is An Enemy, No One Is A Stranger

Hear the words of a Sikh Scripture:

    I see no stranger, I see no enemy
    Wherever I look, God is all I see

    I don’t think of us and them
    No one do I hate or condemn
    I see God’s image – each one a friend.

    Of any religion, caste or race
    All I see is God’s shining face
    His smiling face, His gracious face.
    Accept as beautiful all His design
    I learnt this truth in fellowship divine

    I see no stranger, I see no enemy
    Wherever I look, God is all I see. (Raakhaa Ek Hamaaraa Swaamee)

We remember today the tragic events of September 11, 2001. It has been ten long years since those planes hit the twin towers and crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. So many people have mourned the loss that day of their family and friends, as well as the notion held by the people of the United States that nothing could hurt us.

It is important for us to remember today that the people who perpetrated this terror on 9/11 were not sincere practitioners of Islam, but radicals who felt the United States was an evil place and that our culture needed to be brought down. They were not spiritual followers of the Islam doctrine – they were men with angry flames for vengeance burning bright in their hard hearts.

We must remember that.

Unfortunately, the United States, which calls itself a Christian nation, did not respond as our Christian beliefs teach us. Our response was also one of revenge and hatred. . . not a Christian response. Our Bible says:

    But I tell you not to resist an evildoer. On the contrary, whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well. (Matthew 5:39)

Responding with violence against those who do violence does not bring anything but more hatred and harm and retaliation.

The United States’ search for Osama bin Laden was justified – he should have been captured and tried in an international court for his crimes against many people from many nations, including our own. But instead of focusing on a relentless search for bin Laden, we took revenge against thousands of innocent men, women and children in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, as if we were seeking to harm all who do not practice the Christian faith.

Jesus taught us that

    “We will be a servant church, recognizing the infinite worth of every person and believing that Christ has called us to active involvement in behalf of human brotherhood.”

He calls us to greet our brothers and sisters in an embrace of love, not with war and hateful words.

I have a good friend, Tarunjit, who is a very religious Sikh. The other day he was sitting in the waiting room at his doctor when a 3-year-old boy saw his turban. He said in a very loud voice, “Mom — there is the bad guy”. A heavy silence descended on the room. It was very obvious to my friend that this child had learned his prejudice from his family and society.

Since 9/11, there have been and continue to be far too many cases of Americans lashing out against those who don’t look like us or share our customs. Those who were prejudice used the terrorist attack to justify their personal hatred and increase their own ‘terrorism’ against those not like themselves.

Sound familiar?????

We must remember and live into Jesus’ one great commandment:

    Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34)

There is an old axiom that ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’. Let each one of us make a vow to end the discrimination and violence against anyone simply because they are not like us.

On this day, it is right to remember those innocent people who lost their lives in the events of 9/11. . . to honor their memories and mourn their loss. . . to embrace those who have been radically impacted.

Let us also remember the thousands of innocent men, women and children who have died in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan as a result of our desire for revenge.

We should pray with and for each of these, and offer them the loving grace of God in their suffering.

We also must not speak negatively or cruelly about Muslims or any other culture as a group. We should never lump together our brothers and sisters into categories that allow us to impersonalize them. We should not forget that they share our same hopes and beliefs. Muslims are just like us, except for an accident of birth. Their religion holds similar believes in the brotherhood of man and in the need to live a righteous and loving life.

So on this day, let each of us work hard to make the world a better place by welcoming all, and praying that, together, we can build a better world for all – a world where love, kindness and generosity prevails and hatred, greed and vengeance are no more.

The following is a poem written by Marge Batzer after Father O’Brien and a group of first responders discovered a 17-foot, two-ton crossbeam in the shape of a cross among the rubble of the twin towers:

    Cross Amidst the Ruins
    On an early September morning;
    Hatred reared its ugly head.
    Terrorism struck Manhattan;
    It’s wake left thousands dead!
    It truly was a miracle …
    How many lives were saved.
    Over-shadowed by the horror;
    Of the war-like rubbled grave!

    Time seemed frozen, hope was lost;
    For loved ones left behind.
    Trying to hold onto their faith,
    Praying, “God give us a sign!”
    Uncovered from the wreckage;
    A sight that seemed unreal.
    A cross that stood ’bout twenty feet …
    From twisted beams of steel!

Amen.

 
Delivered at In the Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church On Capitol Square, 11 September 2011

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