Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven years later

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers,

I am excited to announce that the Network of Love blog is officially on IGnation, a special page on the Loyola University website dedicated to student content. Feel free to check out the page by going to From there, IGnation shouldn’t be too difficult to get to. If you are accessing this via IGnation, thank you for checking out the Network. I would love to hear from you if you have any questions or comments, if you disagree with what I am saying, or if you would be interested in adding content in the future. I want the Network to be an open invitation to all who want to write about anything that especially tugs at their heart.

Where were you seven years ago, this very day? I still remember where I was very vividly. I believe I had just finished 3rd period and was on my way to my next class. Students were babbling about something important, but I didn’t quite know what. At the time, it probably seemed like our typical high school gossip–––maybe something had happened to a celebrity or something. But then I remember hearing the news, what was deemed draw dropping news by my peers. The word that consumes the hallways was that the World Trade Centers had been bombed. To be serious, as an eighth grade student, I did not understand the meaning or monstrosity of such an event. Two big, really big, buildings in New York had been bombed. As the news became more specific, I found out that planes had flown into the buildings. Why would planes fly into those buildings? Weren’t the pilots trained to fly the planes high enough so as to avoid towers?

As the day moved on, it became quite clear that this story wasn’t going to go away. This news, like the World Trade Center towers was going to be big, really big. During most of our classes, I remember watching one of the big three news networks. I remember the slue of journalists, panting and grasping for some sort of meaning to the tragedies. I remember the picture of the plane crashing into the buildings–––how could I forget? It was shown to us constantly, so as to make sure everyone felt the pain of the people on the planes and in the buildings.

I remember the pictures of people yelling on the streets below the burning building, grown people crying, grown men crying. There were reports of people who decided that jumping would be superior to burning to death on floor 51. The firefighters, the police officers, the people rushing to the scene to save others. They tirelessly dug for bodies and hoped and prayed that another life could be excavated from the growing pile of concrete and building scraps. Ground Zero, as it came to be known, became the symbol of what had happened to the U.S. Terrorists had been the ones who had flown the planes into the building. Terrorists from the Middle East attacked us. Islamic extremists, Osama bin Laden, al Quada, had been the masters pulling the strings of the puppet suicide bombers.

After that fateful, terrifying day, our world changed forever. September 10, 2001 became the eve of 9/11. Terror over terrorism swept our nation. In they eyes of some, Islam meant extremism, which equated to terrorism. The patriot act became law and it became acceptable in the land of the free to be extra cautious of someone with darker skin wearing un-American clothing. It became acceptable for a police officer or security guard or any citizen to sit and stare at a person and assume they are villainous because they look different.

On 9/11, we lost 2,976 more lives than we ever should have. 2,740 of those lives were citizens of the U.S. 236 of those people who lost their lives because of the actions of terrorists were foreigners. It was a devastating and deadly day. It was like Pearl Harbor but with extended media coverage. 9/11 brought our country towards a War in Iraq. 9/11 made Osama bin Laden a household name. 9/11 brought into the conscious of citizens of the U.S. the entire Middle Eastern world. But unfortunately, as what happens when we hear something from someone who heard something from CNN, things get construed. People get put into groups. Groups become larger and larger. Stereotypes arise. We make false assumptions about entire nations, peoples and religions. We are faced with the dilemma of not knowing how to locate Iraq on a map, but knowing that we are at War with Iraq and that Iraq is a country in the Middle East.

I am just as guilty as accepting and buying into stereotypes as anybody else in this world. Though I desperately want to open myself to the reality that is our entire world community, I realize I have my limitations. I can only try to be the most understanding, compassionate person that I can be. You can only try to do the same.

As a Christian and seminarian, I can’t help but bring a quote from scripture that speaks to how to go about being compassionate, open individuals.

“Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks always and for everything.” (Eph 5: 18, 19)

This particular passage is attributed to Paul, one of the most beloved early preachers and teachers in Christianity. The conversion story of St. Paul is amazing; he was truly changed by one momentous meeting with the Spirit of Jesus Christ. 9/11 changed our world forever in that we lost innocent life. In some ways, this might make Americans bitter, angry, even enraged with those who instigated the attacks. It is understandable to be upset and troubled by what happened on that day. We must never forget the emotions that stirred our hearts the morning we found out what had happened, or that someone we might have known–––or even loved–––had fell victim that day. That morning we mourned. Everyday, in some small way, we still mourn. We all mourn. Today we mourn for the victims of 9/11.

Today, I think I also mourn for the state of our world. There is no doubt good being accomplished in our global society. So many individuals give so much of their energy to causes larger than themselves. Hope flows from every corner of Loyola University’s campus and seems to extend far beyond the horizons of Lake Michigan. But I mourn because so many stereotypes still persist. Like parasites, our ignorance of people, places and events causes us to fall on our face when trying to solve problems. We run into issues when we do not know the facts but decide to fib our way to believing we understand things. Stereotypes kill people, sometimes figuratively, and, when put into action, sometimes literally. One thing I am truly grateful for learning my freshman year in college: a Muslim practices Islam. All Muslims are not extremists. Terrorists come from all different belief systems in all different shapes and sizes. A majority of practicing Muslims, like a majority of practicing Christians, really fight for the most basic and true cause we can think of: PEACE.

Today, let us be ministers of peace. Today, let us think of ourselves as being called to a particular vocation: The vocation of PEACEMAKER. I encourage you to start a relationship with someone who holds a different belief than you do. Start small, or maybe build a bridge you didn’t think could stand.

This entire month is Ramadan, a month of fasting, prayer and a time when Muslims seriously strive to connect or reconnect with their God and their brothers and sisters. Today is a day when we could really step into the greater world community and share a bit in fasting with our Muslim sisters and brothers. At the very least, we could share in prayer with them, knowing that all of us who strive to love, whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or otherwise, strive to work towards peace. Let us be PEACEMAKERS, for blessed are the peacemakers. Let us be one in LOVE. May we dance in the Spirit of opening our hearts to those that may seem different. May we understand that diversity can make our world stronger and can be the hammer that nails the message of PEACE, not the nail that pierces peace.

Let’s hope and pray and work for peace.

With love to all my friends,

Your friend bob.

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