Friday, 9 September 2011
Awareness Sunday from Awareness Sunday on Vimeo.
The short video above is about Awareness Sunday, an initiative which aims to create better understanding between religions and communities as a response to the events of 9/11. The first Awareness Sunday will be the tenth anniversary, this Sunday, and churches and groups all over the world, led in the UK by a service of remembrance and reconciliation in Westminster Abby at 6.30pm, will be drawn together to try to create a better understanding between faiths and cultures. I first read about Awareness Sunday at Synod - I think they had a stall , or some groups was distributing the leaflets. I must admit that (rather ironically) I had not known about this initiative before, nor have I heard of it since.
The events of 9/11 have, of course, been in the news and on our television screens this week. I have mixed feelings about the coverage. The events were so momentous that to say little or nothing seems a travesty, and yet some of the delving into personal stories and lives seems intrusive and voyeuristic. I read a magazine article last week about "the jumpers" - those who fell, or jumped, or were forced to their death. The faces and pictures of those thought to have jumped were on display. The reader could try to match the blurry, grainy photos of them falling to their death, or leaning out of windows waving handkerchiefs, with those other photos, the equally harrowing ones of them living their lives - getting married, hugging their children, smiling at the camera with calm, unknowing eyes. I thought how it might feel for the families left behind, that a decade after their deaths their loved ones are newspaper fodder.
Many people of faith who remember 9/11 this weekend will be acutely aware that religious belief is a force for evil as well as good, that while our faith can help us recognise human dignity and strive for peace, so it can also fuel extremism and hatred. The attacks were made in the name of religion, and yet this can be a simplistic view when politics, cultural ideology and bitterness at injustice, both real and perceived, also played a part. Evil rarely comes from nowhere. The events of 9/11 should leave us grappling with our own propensities for bitterness, fear and hatred. How effectively do we discriminate between justice and revenge or negotiate moral boundaries in a world which is not always black and white, but often rather grey?
The leaflet from Synod is on the desk in front of me as I type. The radio downstairs drones on about the fear that some will use the anniversary of 9/11 to carry out further attacks. The leaflet about Awareness Sunday speaks of its belief that people of all faiths and world views, "will help defeat extremism and enable people to live together in peace, without fear."
It's a nice idea.