To mark 9/11, reach out, reject hate

Submitted Commentary

Published in the Star Tribune (9/10/2021)

When you reflect on Sept. 11, 2001, what comes to mind? If you were of age, we imagine that heartache, confusion, fear and anger were dominant emotions. You turned to family, friends, neighbors and co-workers for comfort. Many of you leaned on the values and traditions of your faith for strength and solace.

The pain that we all felt 20 years ago was intensified for some of our fellow citizens who were treated with suspicion because of their religion, skin color, clothing and hair styles.

Hate crimes against Muslims, and those thought to be Muslim, grew overnight. The first victim of a revenge killing after 9/11 was Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh American. Every year since, on the anniversary of 9/11, an increase of violence and bullying has recurred.

This year’s 20th commemoration of 9/11 is a landmark, and it once again coincides with grim circumstances, death and suffering in Afghanistan. As Afghans make their way to safety in America, we are reminded that supporting our neighbors of other faith traditions has never been more urgent.

In a world where so much is outside our power to change, there is one constant. Each one of us has the opportunity to expand hospitality and to promote appreciative understanding of others in our own local community. It is empowering to know that our personal example has the potential to inspire others to think differently.

Welcome a new neighbor. Support refugees. Refrain from sharing claims on social media that may arise from dubious sources, or which reinforce stereotypes and invoke hate and violence.

If you are a teacher or student, be aware that Muslim youth report a significant increase in hateful comments and physical abuse on Sept. 11 every year.

Knowing of the reality of Islamophobia, the increase of hate crimes against Asian Americans, anti-Semitism and racism, as well as anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment, please take intentional, peaceful steps to support your neighbors from all faith traditions on Sept. 11, 2021 — and every day. Let us commit ourselves to building relationships across our differences and to working together for a more just and loving world.

Anantanand Rambachan is a Hindu community leader and emeritus professor of religion, St. Olaf College. Bradley Schmeling is pastor, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, St. Paul.

Note: Anantanand Rambachan and Bradley Schmeling are also volunteers with the Minnesota Multifaith Network (MnMN); their participation in co-writing this piece was not done as representatives of MnMN, although MnMN’s work of building collaborative multifaith relationships helps make cooperation like this possible.

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