Resources for Interfaith Understanding and Reconciliation
Originally compiled to aid churches in planning worship services and community events to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11, these resources remain a relevent source of information for churches wishing to deepen their practice of interfaith understanding and reconciliation.
You may wish to begin by reading this resolution passed by the 28th General Synod of the United Church of Christ: On Actions of Hostility Against Islam and the Muslim Community
In addition to the resources shown below, the national setting of the United Church of Christ provided a number of resouces to aid churches in planning 9/11 commemorations accessible through www.ucc.org/911remembrance/.
On-Line Resources for Inter-religious Understanding and Peace-building
The Alliance for Peace-building http://www.allianceforpeacebuilding.org
Provides resources and information on all the world’s religions
Beyond the Eleventh www.beyondthe11th.org
Founded by two women in the Boston area who lost their husbands on 9/11, Beyond the 11th
is non-profit organization that provides support to widows in Afghanistan who have been afflicted by war, terrorism, and oppression.
With a strong focus on youth, the Boniuk Center provides valuable information for youth and adult programming.
What you can do on your block, in your home, community, and school
An organization dedicated to transforming the narrative we carry of each other, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. Section on Resources for Religious Leaders includes lesson plans exploring Islam and those who follow the faith
A great interfaith project promoting the Golden rule and respect for others initiated by author Karen Armstrong.
A national interfaith organization, promoting interfaith cooperation and peace.
Worship resources for a Service of Hope and Remembrance, a hymn and links to additional resources.
The nation’s largest multi-faith coalition dedicated to promoting tolerance, peace, and justice through the production and distribution of media.
A research project on the growing religious diversity in US, led by Dr. Diana Eck of Harvard University.
Provides an overview and history of diverse religious communities in Boston area.
Covers a variety of issues related to religion and public life, with a strong focus on current events.
"Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American values."
Tanenbaum confronts religious ignorance and violence head-on with results-oriented programs that reduce hatred and produce real change in the way people think and act.
Some valuable insights into the United Nations’ World Interfaith Harmony week.
USIP provides analysis, training, and tools that prevent and end conflicts and promotes stability.
Online Certificate Course in Interfaith Conflict Resolution
Films Related to Peace, Non-violence and Interfaith Understanding
Exploring the question of forgiveness, the film includes interviews with Sister Helen Prejean, Desmond Tutu, Thich Nhat Hahn, Deepak Chopra, and Rev. Joseph Lowery. Website has good links to resources on forgiveness.
A multiple award-wining documentary about a grassroots non-violent campaign, organized to resist the building of the security fence through the olive groves of a Palestinian village in the West Bank. Balanced and fair to all sides, it serves as an excellent case study of non-violence in action.
This film follows several Israelis and Palestinians who are working together for dialogue and reconciliation, including the leaders of the Parents Forum, which connects families who have lost loved ones to violence. An excellent documentary and very moving.
This film narrated by Ben Kingsley highlights the role of non-violent movements in changing the world in the 20th century. The film examines Gandhi’s work and the Civil Rights Movement, among others. There is a good study guide to go with the film, and website has excellent resources.
Hotel Rwanda (2004) – based on the inspiring story of Paul Rusesabagina, who saved the lives of a thousand Tutsis during the genocide. (Difficult to watch at points, so not for all ages.)
The Lemon Tree (2008) – the story of a Palestinian woman and the Israeli family who lives next door.
Remember the Titans (2000) – based on a true story, this film tells the story of the struggle to integrate a football team in the South.
The stories of peacemakers in 14 countries around the world, narrated by Michael Douglas. Soldiers of Peace showcases the alternatives to conflict, revealing countless inspiring examples to prove that peace can be achieved through great equity, emancipation, tolerance and understanding.
Books on Interfaith Issues
The Little Book of Cool Tools for Hot Topics, by Ron Kraybill and Evelyn Wright (Good Books, 2006)
Noviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PuddleDancer Press, 1999.
Jonathan Magonet. 2003. Talking to the Other: Jewish Interfaith Dialogue with Christians and Muslim. London: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd.
(These next four books have sacred poem-prayers by people of the world’s faiths: Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim and . . . and are great for use as prayer:)
Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 centuries of Spirtual Poetry by Women, edited by Jane Hirschfield.1995. Harper Perennial.
Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West, edited/translated by Daniel Ladinsky, 2002. Penguin Compass.
The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry, edited by Stephen Mitchell. 1942. HarperPerennial.
The Soul is Here for its Own Joy: Sacred poems from Many Cultures. 1995. Edited by Robert Bly. HarperCollins Publishers.
Any book from the Iona Community in Scotland – many prayers about nonviolence, tolerance of difference, radical inclusivity, especially the “Iona Abbey Worship Book” and “A Wee Worship Book” and Peter Millar’s “An Iona Prayer Book.” All can be gotten from Wild Goose Worship Group, www.ionabooks.com
Reflections on the Lectionary Texts for 9/11
The scripture passages from the common lectionary for September 11, 2011
are all contained in this document. Reflections by members of the MACUCC Commission on Ecumenism on some of these passages are contained in the documents below. The scripture passage is included with each individual reflection.
Scripture Passages on Honoring the Stranger
1) Isaiah 58:9a-12 “If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; and you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in."
2) Genesis 21:1-20 The story of Abraham sending Hagar and Ishmael away – God tells Abraham and Hagar that God will be with Ishmael and make of him a great nation, and another great nation down through Isaac.
This is a critical text of our kinship with Islam and Judaism as Christians – for Muslims understand their lineage to come from Abraham through Ishmael, just as Jews and Christians understand their lineage to come from Abraham through Isaac.
3) Genesis 18:1-16 God comes to Abraham as 3 travelers on the road. It is Abraham’s generous hospitality to the strangers that leads to God’s blessing through the future birth of Isaac.
“A Human being is a part of the whole that we call the universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. This illusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desire and to affection for only the few people nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living beings and the whole nature in its beauty.” – Albert Einstein, 1954 (Letter of 1950, as quoted in The New York Times
(29 March 1972) and The New York Post
(28 November 1972).
“In one way, having an enemy is very bad. It disturbs our mental peace and destroys some of our good things. But if we look at it from another angle, only an enemy gives us the opportunity to practice patience. No one else provides us with the opportunity for tolerance. Since we do not know the majority of the five billion human beings on this earth, therefore the majority of people do not give us an opportunity to show tolerance or patience either. Only those people whom we know and who create problems for us really provide us with a good opportunity to practice tolerance and patience.” - Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama
“It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black. I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity. . . I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” - Nelson Mandela (from his book: Long Walk to Freedom (1995)
Hopi Elders’ Message
“You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour. Now you must go back and tell the people that THIS is the hour. And there are things to be considered: Where are you living? What are your relationships? Are you in right relation? Where is your water? Know your garden. It is time to speak your truth. Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for the leader. This could be a good time! There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold onto the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the river. Keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water. See who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from your attitude and vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for!” - the Elders of the Hopi Nation (www.naomilake.com/hopi.shtml
These are prayers that have been written by others over issues of war or assassination, loving the enemy and more. Can you adapt them or find inspiration in them for whatever the time and story you are meeting in your church?
An Opening Prayer
O Holy One, You are the One from whom all life has come to be; You call to us from every part of your Creation - you who have loved us from before the first human ever walked this Earth. Whether we are standing boldly in the sunshine this morning because our hearts are glad, or waiting empty in the snowy shadows with our grief; whether anger smolders in our hearts like glowing ash, or doubt eats away at us like a frosty winter wind; You call to us with Your eternal message of love – it has always been You that we have desired, for nothing else on this earth can satisfy our hunger except for You.
The world around us is full of violence and pain, doubt and mistrust- You know this intimately with us, remembering the cross. We are afraid of those we don’t know, those who don’t look like us, or think like us, or worship like us. Yet today you ask us to love them with greater hearts than we can imagine. Help us to believe what you tell us, Adonai, that you will give us everything we need.
God of our Lives, as we begin our worship, let all that burdens us fall away and may we receive all you intend for us today, our Rock and our Redeemer.
A Pastoral Prayer
O Holy God, you who hovered over the deep and sang all things into being:
You are the one who births, who redeems and who sustains us. You accompany us on the road of our lives, encouraging, teaching, nurturing, feeding and inviting us to recognize you right here beside us. It is so easy for us to forget that You are near.
We get off track so easily, thinking we have earned the things we have; thinking we can make ourselves happy by buying things, or having power, or beauty, or riches; thinking that we are in charge. But if this Easter season has anything to teach us, it is this: that everything we have is from YOU, a gift and a blessing and a grace. Before we can ever do a good act, we already have your love completely and unconditionally just as we are, and an abundance of blessing that surrounds us if we can remember not to take it for granted. When we remember this, then your love flows forth from us like a fountain of joy – and every word and deed we do then comes from you. Then we become truly your hands, your face, your voice to the world
The world needs your touch so badly, Holy One! All the places where vicious tornados have made landfall and left a path of mass destruction in their wakes. All the places where peoples are rising up demanding democratic freedoms and being kidnapped, tortured and killed by their own leaders. All the places where peoples who love the same lands fight and kill each other, instead of living together in peace. All the places where people do not have enough water, or enough food, or enough medicine even though there is enough of these things in the world. But you do not answer our prayers by doing for us, you answer them by doing THROUGH us. May we give ourselves to you, so your healing may truly come to all the world.
This week our news was full of mostly one thing – the death of Osama bin Laden. It has been held up to justify the torture of prisoners, to reconcile the loss of 3,000 lives nearly 10 years ago now, to signify a triumph of some humans over others in the name of peace. But God, what happens to us when we kill? What happens to us if someone kills in our name? What happens to us if we rejoice and dance in the streets at such a killing?
O Holy God our redeemer Jesus, you told us to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors. Did you mean people like Al Qaeda? Did you mean someone like Osama bin Laden? Are you suggesting we should pray for him? Jesus, you said to us, what good is it to love someone who loves you? Even sinners do as much. No, our charge is to love those who persecute us. Well Jesus, that is something most of our human hearts may not be able to manage, frankly, but you have said to us, with God, nothing is impossible. Help us, then, to pray for our enemies, help us to pray this week, then, for Osama bin Laden. Help us find the paths to healing and peace among all peoples so that no human being can ever again do such terrible things to another – let there come an end to killing like his, and ours.
Finally, Holy One, our Creator, our Redeemer and our Sustainer – take our lives and make of us all a better people. Jesus told us that if we ask anything in his name, he will do it – and so we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our risen Lord, Amen.
(Marisa Brown Ludwig, Spring 2011)
We Praise You, Great Spirit, the giver of all life and sustainer of our breath; let us make room for you in our hearts this morning so that you may come near. In stillness, now, may we know your presence. (pause)
Holy One, you know us better than anyone, better than we know ourselves. What do we need this day? What do we need to bring here and leave here? Buttress the places in us that are noble, compassionate, wise and good; enter the places where we are empty and afraid, lonely and in doubt; heal our wounds and kiss away our tears, gather us to you in your transforming love. Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me”. Increase our faith this morning!
God of power and of tenderness, We pray for all our friends and neighbors, people we love and let us also pray for those whom we do not love: our opponents, our betrayers, our enemies. (pause) We pray for those who are sick, who have died, who are suffering in the terrors of mental illness or addiction, who are in prison, and especially we pray, Compassionate Heart, for those who have no one to pray for them.
We lift up to you, Pain-Bearer, the parts of your creation which groan in agony. So many are suffering, Adonai, we hold them now in the midst of this sanctuary: your children, your beautiful lands, your plants and animals and all that has been harmed in Japan, Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Ivory Coast as well as Iraq and Afghanistan; their cries, Lord, they are so many! (pause) We pray for all who are in the midst of violence and war, and all government and world leaders. We know Your love works through our hands and voices – may we find the courage to use them increasingly for healing and peace.
Holy One, we struggle to understand the depth of your love for us, that it is not when the world considers us successful, or wise, or powerful, or accomplished that you love us most – but rather when we forgive each other, are generous with one another, when we are tender, and kind, open, loving, compassionate – what the world sees as weak you count as strong, what the world counts as foolish causes you to rejoice! May we be fools for you, our Creator, our Christ, our Sacred Spirit.
We ask for this and all our prayers in the precious name of Jesus, Amen.
(by Marisa Brown Ludwig, Winter 2011)
An Interfaith Ritual
Have clear glass bowls on the central table in a circle, one for each faith present, with a tall clear glass vase in the middle. Each shall have glass stones inside all of one color (e.g. one bowl all blue glass stones, one bowl all red glass stones, etc.) Ask a person from each faith to step forward, one at a time, and say a prayer of longing, or unity, or peace, or reconciliation that is sacred to their faith (or them), and then they shall pour their faith’s glass stones into the one common tall glass vase.
At the end, all the stones will be mixed, a sign of a way to live together in peace – distinct yet united, all beautiful, creating rainbow. All stand in a circle around the bowls, and say together a prayer of peace.
We Cannot Own the Sunlit Sky by Ruth Duck, set to Endless Song by Robert Lowry
#563 in the New Century Hymnal
This is My Song Words by Lloyd Stone, set to Finlandia by Jean Sibelius
#591 in the New Century Hymnal
A poem written on Star Island upon learning of the attacks, by Steven Ratiner, literary coordinator of the All Souls Project http://www.wbur.org/2011/09/05/sept-11-star-island