Fighting Fear Rhetoric through Interfaith Collaboration: A 9/11 Reflection

Some may believe that the United States is the only nation in which government officials and companies benefit from fear-mongering, especially on the anniversaries of tragic incidents such as those experienced on the East Coast on September 11th, 2001.

But there are political and financial elites in other nations, such as Uganda, who also use the anniversaries of terrorist attacks to justify warring and pillaging Muslim countries.  After the bombings in Kampala on 7/11 in 2010, the attacks were quickly blamed on al-Qaeda affiliates al-Shabaab.  This led to the further deployment of UPDF troops in Somalia, who in recent days were accused of gang-rapes.  Outspoken journalist Timothy Kalyegira suggested online the central government of Uganda also be investigated for facilitating the bombings, and he was quickly imprisoned for his request.  (We at Solidarity Uganda had the opportunity of interviewing him on film concerning these things and others.)

As we remember tragedies such as 7/11 and 9/11, we must remember them as a warning, not a guide.  Too often our responses are to follow suit by repaying an eye for an eye (or at the rates of the United States and Uganda – two nations fighting terror with even more terror – an entire body for an eye).  When our pastors, our businessmen, our neighbors say things like “every Muslim celebrates when a Christian is killed,” (a teaching I recently heard from a Ugandan pulpit) ask them more about their closest Muslim friend.  Chances are they don’t have one.  And how can one have any right to perpetuate stereotypes without first knowing and understanding?  Today is a reminder that “other” is not “other.”  The human race is one, and every bomb, every war is a wound which can only be healed through seeking deeper understanding.

Said one Solidarity Uganda guest trainer who is regularly facilitating interfaith dialogues, “Violence is best prevented, and unity is best built, when we work together on the same social issues.”  Recognizing what unites us and what problems we all face together (and collaborating to end these injustices) brings us together in an organic way.  We felt this during the first of many gun violence vigils in Harrisburg, during which Catholics, Unitarians, Muslims, Anabaptists, and others took leadership roles.  Oil subsidies and political power: these are fleeting things not worth dying for.  The lives of neighbors on the other hand….that is worth our struggle.

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During an interfaith nonviolent action training with Solidarity Uganda, participants map their community issues and draft solutions.

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