Friday, September 9, 2011

Reflections on 9/11: Heal and Unite the Human Family

The Rev. Dr. George Regas
Rector Emeritus
All Saints Church
Pasadena, California

The Urgency of 9/11

Mary Regas and I were at LAX on Sept. 11, 2001 for a 7 a.m. flight to New York for a national meeting of progressive religious leaders. We were checking our bags around 5:45 a.m. when great confusion erupted.

“We can’t check your bag,” the person at the counter said softly. “All flights have been canceled.”

I challenged her.

“Get us a flight anywhere on the East Coast,” I said. “It is important that I find a flight.”

In a few minutes she said, “All flights in the country are canceled.”

Soon word spread: “New York has been attacked.”

In confusion and grief, we left and drove to the nearest hotel to watch the horrendous television news of the planes flying into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

When we got home, I immediately called my close friend, Rabbi Leonard Beerman, to discuss these tragic events and how we might respond creatively to the disaster. We both called people who had been colleagues in peacemaking activities over the years.

The next day, 15 people gathered with us at All Saints Church. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Unitarians, Buddhists and other traditions — we were all seeking a way to respond that was compatible with our religious commitments.

Three-thousand people from 90 countries at the World Trade Center, Shanksville, Pa., and the Pentagon died on that heartbreaking day. The enormity of hatred unleashed against America weighed heavily on all of us. The tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001 will be on my mind as long as God gives me a memory.

Yet we were all troubled by the cries for retaliation that would later take us into war. Unquestionably, the US should bring to justice Osama bin Laden and the other terrorists responsible for the horror of 9/11; bring them before an international court. This does not require the devastation of war; it demands the work of justice.

Within a week, we came together bringing other peacemakers; after two hours 85 of us had a name: Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP). For the past 10 years we’ve met every Friday at 7 a.m. at Immanuel Presbyterian Church.

From the day ICUJP was founded in September 2001, in coalition with a growing chorus of voices, we pleaded with President Bush and other elected officials to reject fear and embrace the rule of law, to avoid overreaction and pursue reconciliation and, above all else, say that religious communities must stop blessing war and violence.

Our voices fell on deaf ears, as blind patriotism captured America and the Bush administration lied to the American public to gain support for the US attack on Afghanistan and then Iraq.

Over these 10 years, the US has established a permanent state of undeclared war, violence and occupation. Our government has suspended civil liberties, violated human rights and engaged in torture. During these tragic years of war, the US has demonized Muslims, Arabs and South Asians.

We have plundered our communities at home, given tax breaks to our wealthiest citizens and removed essential support from the sick and the poor of our nation.

The brilliant, highly respected economist Joseph Stiglitz says the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will cost the US $6 trillion. And for most of the 10 years, the cost of the wars was put on the nation’s credit card.

As I live with the enormous human needs of our nation and the diminishing budgets throughout the country, and then look at the human and financial costs of these wars of Bush and Obama, I believe we are at a point where people are ready to say: I will give my life and energies to creating a peaceful world. I must stop these wars!

War takes the financial resources that could save lives, feed the hungry, heal the world’s suffering, and uses these resources to destroy — I hate war for that.

If we are to have any hope, there must be a massive act of conscience that says: Stop the wars; use our resources to heal and unite the human family.

Dr. George Regas is a dominant voice for peace and justice in the United States. For three decades, Dr. Regas served as Rector of All-Saints Church. Under the leadership of Dr. Regas, All Saints Church opposed the Vietnam War, the escalating nuclear arms race, the covert Central America wars, and both the Gulf Wars I and II. During his 28 years of service with the church, Dr. Regas established the largest AIDS service center in the San Gabriel Valley; supervised the creation of the Young & Healthy Program, which serves uninsured and under-insured children; and established the homeless shelter, Union Station.

In 1998, Dr. Regas founded The Regas Institute. The Institute is dedicated to the study and examination of Progressive Religion that seeks to counter the dominance of the Religious Right. The Regas Institute seeks to organize and advocate locally and nationally for a Progressive Religion that speaks and acts on both economic and racial justice, as well as gender equality, gay justice and reproductive choice.

He was the first priest in the Episcopal Church to bless same sex unions.

ICUJP has played a significant role in Southern California advocating for peace and seeking to be an alternative voice to the war on terrorism.

Integrity USA welcomes your reflections on 9/11. Send them to Louise Brooks, Director of Communications:

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