On the eve of the 9/11 anniversary, the New York Neighbors for American Values, including Trinity Wall Street, gathered for a peaceful candlelight vigil to support the American constitutional values of religious freedom, diversity, and equality, and the rights of Muslim Americans to build a community center at 51 Park Place. More than 2,000 people attended. Below are the remarks delivered at the vigil by the Reverend Canon James G. Callaway, D.D., on behalf of Trinity Wall Street.
I want to thank all you neighbors near and far for coming downtown tonight for the good of this neighborhood. Following Imam Talib I can only say that from the diversity of tonight's speakers you will be hearing some very similar themes repeated many times.
Those of us who were present nine years ago have shared to some degree in drinking from a bitter cup. At such times, as people of faith emerge from the rubble, they have to decide what are their values and how deeply they hold them? In times of trauma, do we stand fast with our beliefs or do we turn and run?
When our Anglican partner Desmond Tutu visited Rwanda after the genocide he sensed that their impulse was to avoid the conflict and just get back to normal. He challenged them, saying that it was not enough to bind up the wounds and just restore order: rather it was necessary to break the cycle so it never would happen again. He warned, “if you just move on, this will all re-occur in another generation after the vanquished have retreated to the bush and can finally come back and attack.”
The only thing which can break the cycle of violence are our core values of reconciliation and compassion. Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel have a long history of opening their doors to members of other faiths when there is need. In the 1970’s a group of Muslims that had no space of their own were given hospitality at St. Paul’s Chapel for prayer and fellowship, before finding space in the twin towers after they were built. In the 1990’s, recognizing that in a diverse city only an interfaith voice could be heard speaking to justice, Trinity helped found the Partnership of Faith bringing together Muslims, Jewish, and Christian pastoral leaders as a force for good. After September 11th Trinity and Imam Feisal worked together to promote a climate of dialogue and mutual understanding, collaborating on a national television program Listening to Islam.
I have just returned from Sudan where our partners in the Episcopal Church of Sudan are joining hands with Muslims in the South to build a just, new society. If they can do it in a land racked for forty years based on religious animosities, surely we can do no less in this country founded on values of religious freedom. While we understand the pain of loss, our role as believers is to stand alongside others for reconciliation and peace. It is only when we break the cycle of violence with something stronger that the blessings of peace can come. As we gather tonight I am reminded of the words of the psalmist,
“Behold how good and pleasant it is , when brethren live together in unity.”