I sat in disbelief as I watched the lunchtime news - the second passenger aircraft ploughed into the side of the World Trade Center in New York and it looked like a scene from a Hollywood blockbuster. It took a long time to realise the significance of what I had just seen. Thousands of ordinary people had just started to arrive at work in the heart of New York. Countless mothers, fathers and children had said "goodbye" to their families just a short time before. They had made the daily, frustrating journey through the New York rush hour and arrived to the relative calm of their familiar office environment. Thousands more were coming and queuing outside the building for that 'special trip' - a chance to visit one of the world`s tallest buildings and get a spectacular view of one of the world's great cities.
Within minutes thousands were dead or trapped or maimed. New York was paralysed and in a state of confusion.
One thing is sure - this is a cross roads, the world will never be the same. Many countries, many people, ordinary people who just want to get on with life and who are not concerned about politics or 'big issues', will face a different future now because of what happened. It may be through escallation and instability, military reprisals or world recession - but life will change and probably for the worse.
I fear for the future.....
On a more personal note, as a Christian I am now struggling with the simple question; "What should my response be?"
I`ll have to postpone asking 'why did God allow this to happen?' and similar questions. I feel like asking these almost every time I watch the world news. I simply don`t know how a God of love and mercy can allow such seemingly mindless evil to destroy the lives of so many people. But I still trust Him, I still believe that He is all powerful and all loving, and that somehow, He will bring some kind of greater good out of this utter chaos. I believe that with all my heart.
The first thing I will do (and keep on doing) is to pray, particularly for the injured and dying, their families, the people working to find survivors and all the medical staff. Wartime experience in Britain showed time and again that in such situations, people 'rise above themselves' and start to work together like never before. I have no doubt that this is happening right now at the sites affected. I will keep on praying that God will bless those efforts and move people to work together.
In the context of Christian witness to Muslims, I feel that this incident could do a great deal of harm. I urge you, the Christian reader, to think about the following, and do all you can to make the right response.
Points to ponder:
It may well be that those who did this call themselves "Muslim" - but we must not follow the media's lead in implying that all Muslims are "terrorists" or sympathetic to terrorists. If you fall for this line, you are moving towards an evil extreme. Only hours after the attack, an Arab friend of mine in the US reported: "An American guy on the TV was saying for all Americans to find and Arab and KILL an ARAB!."
If we can reject media stereotypes, and speak as objectively as possible about the situation, we have a chance to help Muslims overcome their stereotypes and see that there are 'real Christians' who are different.... I would urge all Christians to be very circumspect in the way they talk about this incident. If you have personal contact with Muslims then be extra careful to affirm them and show your acceptance of them. The chances are that they might feel nervous because the media unceasingly link their religion to this attack. Do nothing and say nothing that may give them the impression that you regard all Muslims as somehow being responsible or who implicitly support such terrorists. Be sure you lovingly try to correct those who will use this incident as hate-fuel against Muslims
Yes!, this means you should try to support and stick up for the Muslims that you know who might suffer a backlash from this incident. I believe that this our Christian duty before God - simply following the world's ideas is NOT an option.
Finally, please pray, and go on praying, that the Lord Jesus will use this incident to further His kingdom. That may seem hard to believe, but I know He is able to do it. Jesus Christ has many titles in the scriptures - one of which is the "Prince of Peace". He alone is able to bring true peace to the hearts of men and women and He alone can turn enemies into friends.
11th September 2001