Women Religious Leaders Speak of Faith, Healing

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(WOMENSENEWS)–Women religious leaders–Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and others–were interviewed Friday and Saturday as they were recovering from their own shock and grief and preparing to help others to do the same. Their words were remarkably similar, despite different theologies and rituals. They spoke of peace, reconciliation and healing.

Cantor Cathy Schwartzman, Temple of Universal Judaism, New York City

It’s time for the quiet voices to get loud.

We soft-spoken peace lovers must raise our voices and let it be known that we can lovingly and aggressively reach across those invisible lines that divide us into competing groups.

We must work hard to understand who our “enemies” are. We have to listen hard in order to articulate, loudly and clearly, the truths we come to understand.

We can and must pursue peace with furious energy and focus.

Dr. Amina Wadud, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia

I have been living in such a state of shock, horror and dismay. I have lost my ability to resume with things as normal.

Walking away from one of my classes, before all classes were canceled on Tuesday, someone blew a car horn right next to me, very loudly. Because it is the city and always noisy, I did not look up. When it was repeated, I noticed that there were no cars within car lengths of the vehicle. I thought it extremely odd, but still did not conclude that it was directed at me, despite the fact that I was dressed in traditional Islamic attire.

When I returned to my office the department secretary hurried in to give me a list of people who had called asking after my safety, and I retrieved several voicemail messages, local and long distance. My daughter called from another state five times that day. I found this difficult to swallow. Then I was angry.

Women whose heads were covered were warned not to go outside. … I remained in my own community some 20 miles from the city and campus for the next few days, only wearing a short discreet scarf until I attended a remembrance service on campus Friday. This was my first official act to regain my own humanity after feeling mostly for the suffering of others and sparing myself no room for my own loss of dignity under the attack on Muslims.

Men make war. Women become special victims of it. Men have been the primary spokespersons in these events. We are bombarded with men’s assessment of acts in which men who were trained by men, continue to think like men, and the idea that if we cannot achieve our selfish ends by peaceful means, then we will violently destroy other men, our women, children and even ourselves to effect some change.

No matter if that change in the end brings about only more violent destruction for other men, women and children and for the general moral fiber of human civilization.

We will not have a world if we continue to leave it up to the big boys. It is time they sit down and learn to listen to a message of peaceful coexistence that women have experienced from the village to the city for many generations. The Quranic message is simple on this: “We made you into nations and tribes so that you might know one another, not so that you might despise one another.” When will we learn?

Janet Chisholm, Interim Co-Executive Director, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Nyack, New York

I just came back from a service at a Sufi Islamic group nearby. The father of four young children has not been found and we wanted to show our solidarity. We talked with their leadership. They were grateful that we came, that we have said that we want to be in solidarity with them. They have said that their families are fearful.

There will be three stages of healing from this incident: a shock stage of trauma and mourning, an anger stage which will affect even those who are pro-peace, and finally a stage where we think about what we can do for the long term–how we, as a community, can deal with the peaceful resolution of conflict.

The Fellowship for Reconciliation has opened a peace room for people who need time to think about the events of the past week.

We follow the way of Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King who tell us to use nonviolence. We must learn to deal with violence in a peaceful way.

Mary Daly, Feminist Philosopher and Author and Teacher for 30 Years at the Boston College Theology Department

I’m concerned with reclaiming the spirit of life, the love of life, the lust of life. What you saw happening in the World Trade Center is the opposite of the love of life; it’s necrophilia, it’s the love of death.

The shock … is numbing at first. There is the problem of getting situated again, and not just looking at the babble in the foreground. I’m looking for something much deeper and broader … how life on this planet is going to be sustainable.

Quantum leaps are required now, enormous leaps of courage. The courage we need is existential. It requires an enormous courage, an outrageous contagious courage, to reclaim our powers that have been stolen from us.

Regaining those powers means creating a new feminism, not based on the imitation of male language or careerism. We need to participate in the universe as fully as possible, to recognize the connection of all living beings, and that all beings are living. We need to connect with the big universe.

Insofar as we are alive, we can use the experience of suffering, that knowledge, to get us closer in touch with the utter battle to choose a life that is life-affirming.

Barbara Lundblad, Associate Professor at Union Theological Seminary and a Lutheran Minister, New York City

Women in the faith communities should begin at once to reach across denominational lines and begin new conversations, especially with the often-isolated Muslim communities.

Being together we can move beyond that feeling of being helpless on the face of the earth.

I think women feel this in a particular way. I wish that mothers, the women, the daughters of all these nations could somehow come together in some way that hasn’t happened in other channels, even across the United Nations.

No one knows of any word that will really console right now. There’s the sense that people simply have to hold on to one another.

It’s a time of deep, deep change in the national psyche, and I’m hoping that those of us who are leaders within the communities of faith can find new ways of talking and reaching out to one another.

I don’t think we can use the kind of language we’ve used in the past, the way that the government spoke in the Iraqi war of “surgical strikes” and “collateral damage”–as if there were no people involved.

The images of the Twin Towers collapsing, hearing the stories and the names, has made people understand that when buildings collapse, they aren’t empty shells, but buildings filled with people.

Rev. Mariah Britton, Minister, Riverside Church, New York City

We, humanity, must find ways to listen. In a prayer service held on Wednesday, the Rev. Fanny Erickson emphasized that we must not demonize these terrorists because we did not hear the cries of the 300,000 people who perished in the Gulf War. This act of terrorism was an act of saying “Yes, we are here, we are hurting, hear our cries.”

This incident has shown the city and the nation that we are very much connected–everyone has known someone who was involved in the events that took place on Tuesday.

Like everyone else, it’s been quite a horrific experience, one in which there’s been a tremendous amount of grief. There is a lot of sorrow that we haven’t expressed yet.

I have no desire in my heart to go to war. We must be called to consciousness to work toward peace. My hope is that people, as a result of this experience, will do some soul searching and make a sincere commitment to peace.

Angela E. Oh, Zen Buddhist Priest, Temple An-Ko-In, Oahu, Hawaii

We are, in this period of time, traveling down a dangerous road that divides and separates human beings so that we cannot see the essence of humanity in even those most reviled. This can produce only one result: violence and destruction like we have never known.

This event is an illustration of our interconnection. The suicidal hijackers, the innocent passengers, the victims in the World Trade Center, and those who plotted this horrendous act all shared something in their demise: Together they let out a cry for help to save all humankind in their sacrifice.

There is a story that talks about the enormous influence and power women hold. We need to recognize and be conscious of what this means.

They say that when men want to go to war–and when women do not–the village does not follow. But when women want to move, no matter what men say or do, the village will follow.

Florence Pert, Senior Associate Minister, Marble Collegiate Church, New York City

Tuesday, we, the ministers at Collegiate, stood at the doors of the church, ready to greet the throngs of people walking uptown. We offered people cups of water–a simple act of kindness that meant so much to so many people. It was an opportunity for very distraught people to talk about what they had experienced, to talk about their losses.

We have a list of people in our congregation that we know are safe. Our staff has been calling as many people as possible, just to say how are you, we are thinking of you.

I think it’s been very, very encouraging to see all the churches filled with people. We had 600 people at our noontime service on Friday–many were people we had never seen before, like young adults.

Many young adults have never experienced the possibility of a war on the scale that this one is on and they are searching for answers and trying to understand and contextualize what took place last Tuesday. They are suffering shock more than anyone else. They could never imagine that something of this magnitude could occur in their lifetime.

Dr. Uma Mysorekar, President, Hindu Temple Society of North America, Flushing, Queens

This is a tragedy for humanity. It has affected each one of us–man, woman and child. There is a feeling of total shock and dismay.

It is a time that our faith must intensify. We must offer prayer day in and day out. Prayer can work miracles. From the Hindu point of view, you have to think a little deeper. We as citizens of humanity must do our part to help each other.

We all must grieve. We must mourn. It is a time for reconciliation and healing. But life must go on and we must not make prejudgments. We must not let emotions take us away.

We must reconcile and go on with life and not miss a single moment.

Our temple will be chanting Vedas on Sunday. Vedas emphasize that the soul is important and is immortal. We will chant prayers to ensure that those who perished will rest in peace and those left behind will live in peace.

Siobhan Benet is content manager for Women’s Enews. Free-lance writer Cynthia Cooper contributed to this story.

For more information:

Temple of Universal Judaism:
http://www.tuj.org/

Fellowship of Reconciliation:
http://www.forusa.org/

Boston College Theology Department:
http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/theo/

Union Theological Seminary:
http://www.uts.columbia.edu/

The Riverside Church:
http://www.theriversidechurchny.org/

Marble Collegiate Church:
http://www.marblechurch.org/

Hindu Temple Society of North America:
http://www.indianet.com/ganesh/index.htm


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