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After 9/11: A rabbi, pastor, and imam join hands to oppose extremism

Brought together by 9/11, three friends – a rabbi, a pastor, and an imam – work together to find and appreciate the spiritual resources present in all of their faith traditions.

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We soon realized there were dangerous mischaracterizations not only of Islam, but also of each of our faiths. We knew that there were truly spiritual resources within each of our traditions, but also that there were elements in each of our central texts that have been used to support the exclusivity that too often leads to violence in the name of religion.

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Rabbi Ted Falcon:

9/11 demonstrated the shallowness of much past interfaith work: The West was quick to demonize not just the perpetrators of that stunningly criminal action, but also the whole of their faith.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam each have core spiritual teachings against which all other aspects of those faiths must be measured. While each faith contains all of the core teachings, we found that Judaism emphasizes oneness, and the justice that follows from that oneness; Christianity emphasizes unconditional love, and the community that follows from that love; and Islam emphasizes compassion, and the compassionate action toward self and other that follows.

But we have also found major aspects of each faith that conflict with these core values. Religious institutions, to protect their influence, introduce dogma that too often eclipses central spiritual teachings – leading not toward compassion and oneness but toward exclusivity and the violence it engenders. Any interfaith dialogue that is to sustain us in times of crisis must confront these difficult areas within our own traditions.

Pastor Don Mackenzie:

Since 9/11, the most important thing I’ve learned has been the necessity for spiritual awareness as a prerequisite for translating spiritual teachings into action. By spiritual awareness, I mean a condition made possible by intentional practices (such as prayer, meditation, and fasting) where the individual self is seen as clearly as possible as a contributing partner to the greater whole of creation. These practices can be rooted in any path that helps to provide purpose and meaning and contributes to the common good. Spiritual practices provide centeredness by helping each of us perceive our deeper being apart from the “doings” and the “havings” of the separate self.

In Christianity, the story of Jesus’s time in the wilderness and the temptations of the devil preceding his public ministry of healing and challenge to the status quo (Luke 4:1-13) reflect this necessity. In that story the particulars are metaphors. The “devil” is the personification of the evil that can so easily fill the emptiness that comes when we are not intentional concerning our spiritual practices.

The moral issues facing us today are so great and complex that we cannot move forward effectively without doing this work that will help us to make the best choices and sustain our energy and hope.

Imam Jamal Rahman:

The 10 years since 9/11 have been a story of lost opportunities and lapses into old patterns. We learn from history that we do not learn from history. But, I would like to focus on hope and vision, on the life-affirming consequences of interfaith relationships in our country.

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