Peace among American religions is possible, three religious leaders said at a forum Sunday, Sept. 11 in Norman.
Community members gathered at the Nancy O’Brian Center for the Performing Arts to attend the Abrahamic Faiths Post 9/11: Building Peaceful Communities In a Violent World forum, where religious leaders from Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities discussed the impact of 9/11.
The program was not a celebration or a time of mourning, said moderator Barbara Boyd, director of outreach for the religious studies program at the University of Oklahoma.
“Today’s program is focused on a message of peace that transcends the suffering caused when airplanes became weapons of death,” she said.
The suffering after 9/11 allowed many to focus on ties of humanity rather than differences in religion, panelist Imam Imad Enchassi, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said.
“Out of evil always comes good,” Enchassi said.
“As I approached the mosque [on Sept. 12, 2001], I could see something shiny in front of our door at the mosque. Immediately, to my surprise, everyone picked up their phones and started dialing 911, saying, ‘A bomb, somebody left a bomb at the front door.’ Something divinely drove me toward the door. It was a healing bomb. It was an aluminum bouquet of flowers left in front of our mosque by someone who cared enough to say that they loved us as their neighbors.”
Rev. Mitch Randall, senior pastor at NorthHaven Church, did not experience the good will Enchassi did.
“It was on the morning of Sept. 12, 2001 that I made my way out of my favorite coffee shop in Fort Worth, Texas,” Randall said.
“While getting into my car, a young man pulled up beside me in his pickup truck. He stared at me for a moment, then made a conclusion, most likely based on the color of my skin, that I was one of ‘them’ and offered a one-finger salute to demonstrate his anger.”
Despite this incident, different faiths can find peace with each other, Randall said.
Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield, president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, discussed the process of rebuilding trust after terrorist attacks.
“There are no easy answers, and we ought not rely on any easy answers because the task before us is a mighty task,” Hirschfield said.
“To remember to put it all together again is the task of this entire nation.”
Learning about other faiths was the best part of the event, said OU sophomore Hannah White.
“Oklahoma is largely Baptist, and I think they did a really good job of teaching about Judaism and Islamic faith,” White said.
“I know very little about the Islam faith…I always thought that Muslims were completely different, but they’re not when you get all three into the room.”
The event provided an opportunity for healing, said OU sophomore Grace Conway.
“I think it was a good program for our community, and I’m glad it was opened up to the community,” Conway said.
“In the past, they’ve had things like this for OU and the religious studies department, and I think it’s really good that the community had this.”
The forum also included a ceremony in which four children from the three Abrahamic faiths mixed colored sands to represent religious unity, something Conway said she found very meaningful.
The event helped students remember lessons learned after 9/11, White said.
“It’s a reminder that we’re all people, and we all have to be strong together,” she said.
“It reminded me that we need to have hope and make peace, and that’s my goal for our country.”
Rabbi Bradley Hirschfield discusses the importance of showing love to other religions with Rev. Mitch Randall and Imam Imad Enchassi. PHOTO: Kate McPherson