North Park University Commemorates 10th Anniversary of 9/11 with Interfaith Worship

Michael Roth reads from the Hebrew Bible at the 9/11 Commemorative Worship Service Sept. 15.
Michael Roth reads from the Hebrew Bible at the 9/11 Commemorative Worship Service.

Students comment on anniversary's meaning, their hopes for the future

CHICAGO (Sept. 20, 2011) — About 100 North Park University students, faculty, and staff attended an interfaith worship event September 15 to pray together and discuss the meaning — then and now — of the attacks on the United States that occurred September 11, 2001.

The special 9/11 Commemorative Worship Service was held at the University's Anderson Chapel. Students representing the Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) participated in the worship and commented on a series of questions about 9/11. The event was planned by the North Park University Office of Diversity, the Middle Eastern Student Association, and University Ministries. The Rev. Judy Peterson, the University's campus pastor, led the worship.

The events of 9/11 "have shaped much of American foreign policy and global policy, and how we interact with one another on our streets and on campus," Peterson said. She invited the congregation to hear the stories of others, noting that those stories "are much more similar to [yours] than they are different." The world becomes safer when people reach across boundaries and borders, she said. Peterson also read from an essay she wrote about 9/11.

Students read Scripture from the sacred texts of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Michael Roth read from the Hebrew Bible, George Habash from the Quran, and Lisa Fongers from the Christian Bible.

Velda Love, director for justice and intercultural learning in the Office of Diversity, introduced a time of dialogue and comment. She noted that each of the Scripture texts contained "core spiritual values" of love, justice, and compassion. "Because we are in a season of hope, and a season of healing, we're coming to collect our stories to help us move into a daily practice of 'us, our, and we,' so that our daily practice becomes a way of listening to one another, of learning from one another, and from loving one another, for God is love," she said.

She added that if the people gathered are committed to being a community of "one," then those assembled could freely speak words that make a difference and can help promote a future of hope.

Students and others gathered commented to the congregation on three questions:

How can we heal from the past?

Comments focused on healing by learning, particularly by conversing with people whose life experiences are different.

How is my life different today because of 9/11?

"My life has changed [by] being able to dialogue about it, ask questions about it, and read more about it, and turn my ignorance into more knowledge through conversation," said one woman.

One man remembered 9/11 as the year of his bar mitzvah. What comes to my mind, he said, "is a loss of innocence, taking more responsibility for my own actions, and just realizing there's a lot of cruelty in the world, and [having to] face it with a lot of strength and a lot of dignity. It's something we all have to do."

A young woman said that what happened on 9/11 is happening today in many places in the Middle East, particularly against Arabs. What happened on 9/11 should never happen again, she said. "At the same time we need to know it is happening again, and a lot of people are supporting it. If we just all work together to make peace, really hurtful things happening around the world…will stop, not only in the U.S., but all around the world," she said.

Another woman said 9/11 inspired her to learn more and be informed. "It really pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and have these types of conversations with different people," she said.

What is your hope for the future?

One young woman began by saying she hopes for reconciliation. Another student said he hopes North Park students will take advantage of the University's exchange program to experience life in a different culture.

A young man said he was in the Middle East when 9/11 happened, and witnessed "the painful truth" that some, including members of his own family, were happy about what happened to the United States. "From that day on I became interested in reading the news," he said. He left the Middle East and came to the United States, eventually becoming a Christian because Jesus Christ taught love and forgiveness, he said.

"I love my family and friends and I'm praying for them that we would all become open-minded and we would know the truth," he said, adding that he's glad when people can sit together, have a meal with others, and "love one another as human beings."

"We know we can heal," Love said. "We know we have been impacted by 9/11. We know there is hope for our future. We know that as we move from day to day that the God who looks at us is hoping that we will look at each other and see God reflected in our eyes, in our smiles, and in our conversations."

The service concluded with prayers for those who lost their lives in 2001 and for the community of faith. Led by Anis Said, North Park University professor of Arabic, the congregation also held hands and prayed the Lord's Prayer in their own traditions consistent with each of the three Abrahamic faiths.

The Rev. Dr. Boaz Rajkumar Johnson, North Park University professor of biblical and theological studies, quoted from his written essay reflecting on the anniversary. He concluded the service with prayers, including a closing blessing sung in Hebrew.


For further information or resources, contact John Brooks, Director of Media Relations and News, via email or at (773) 244-5522. Learn more about North Park University.