Immediately after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, an
interfaith group representing millions of citizens drafted a religious
response to terrorism. Entitled, "Deny Them Their Victory," the group
expressed bitter anger at the attacks that killed so many
but pleaded with government decision makers to avoid reactions that
would accelerate the indiscriminate loss of life. The statement was
signed by 4,000 people.
Its eloquence may not have significantly slowed
the momentum to war, but it remains a historic expression by people of
faith who were deeply pained by the attacks, and deeply committed to
expressing the love of God to halt further bloodshed. Ten years later,
the words ring as true as they did in the stinging aftermath of
September 11, 2001.
The statement was written by Jim Wallis of
Sojourners, Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of
Reform Judaism, the Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, then general secretary
of the Reformed Church in America, and the Rev. Bob Edgar, then general
secretary of the National Council of Churches.
to read a contemporary news story about the statement.
Deny Them Their
A Religious Response to Terrorism
religious leaders, share the broken hearts of our fellow citizens.
The worst terrorist attack in history that assaulted New York City,
Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, has been felt in every American
community. Each life lost was of unique and sacred value in the eyes
of God, and the connections Americans feel to those lives run very
deep. In the face of such a cruel catastrophe, it is a time to look
to God and to each other for the strength we need and the response
we will make. We must dig deep to the roots of our faith for
sustenance, solace, and wisdom.
First, we must find a word of
consolation for the untold pain and suffering of our people.
Our congregations will offer their practical and pastoral resources
to bind up the wounds of the nation. We can become safe places to
weep and secure places to begin rebuilding our shattered lives and
communities. Our houses of worship should become public arenas for
common prayer, community discussion, eventual healing, and
Second, we offer a word of sober
restraint as our nation discerns what its response will be.
We share the deep anger toward those who so callously and massively
destroy innocent lives, no matter what the grievances or injustices
invoked. In the name of God, we too demand that those responsible
for these utterly evil acts be found and brought to justice. Those
culpable must not escape accountability. But we must not, out of
anger and vengeance, indiscriminately retaliate in ways that bring
on even more loss of innocent life. We pray that President Bush and
members of Congress will seek the wisdom of God as they decide upon
the appropriate response.
Third, we face deep and profound
questions of what this attack on America will do to us as a nation.
The terrorists have offered us a stark view of the world they would
create, where the remedy to every human grievance and injustice is a
resort to the random and cowardly violence of revenge – even against
the most innocent. Having taken thousands of our lives, attacked our
national symbols, forced our political leaders to flee their
chambers of governance, disrupted our work and families, and struck
fear into the hearts of our children, the terrorists must feel
But we can deny them their victory by
refusing to submit to a world created in their image.
Terrorism inflicts not only death and destruction but also
emotional oppression to further its aims. We must not allow this
terror to drive us away from being the people God has called us to
be. We assert the vision of community, tolerance, compassion,
justice, and the sacredness of human life, which lies at the heart
of all our religious traditions. America must be a safe place for
all our citizens in all their diversity. It is especially important
that our citizens who share national origins, ethnicity, or religion
with whoever attacked us are, themselves, protected among us.
Our American illusion of
invulnerability has been shattered. From now on, we
will look at the world in a different way, and this attack on our
life as a nation will become a test of our national character. Let
us make the right choices in this crisis - to pray, act, and unite
against the bitter fruits of division, hatred, and violence. Let us
rededicate ourselves to global peace, human dignity, and the
eradication of injustice that breeds rage and vengeance.
As we gather in our houses of worship,
let us begin a process of seeking the healing and grace of God.
Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the
Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for shared
ecumenical witness among Christians in the United States. The NCC's 37
member communions -- from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox,
Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches -- include
45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities
across the nation.
NCC News contact: Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212
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