'We are called to another way': Presiding Bishop Griswold on the September 11 attacks
The events of this morning in New York City and Washington, D.C. make me keenly aware that violence knows no boundaries and that security is an illusion. To witness the collapse of the World Trade Center was to confront not only our vulnerability as a nation in spite of our power, but also the personal vulnerability of each of us to events and circumstances that overtake us. My heart goes out to those who have been killed or injured, and to their stunned and grieving families and friends.
Our President has vowed to hunt down and punish those who are responsible for these depraved and wicked acts. Many are speaking of revenge. Never has it been clearer to me than in this moment that people of faith, in virtue of the Gospel and the mission of the Church, are called to be about peace and the transformation of the human heart, beginning with our own. I am not immune to emotions of rage and revenge, but I know that acting on them only perpetuates the very violence I pray will be dissipated and overcome.
Last week I was in Dublin where I found myself convicted by the photograph of a young girl in Northern Ireland being taken to school amid taunts and expressions of hatred because she was Roman Catholic. I know the situation in Northern Ireland is complex, and that religion is a convenient way of ordering hatred and justifying violence, but the tears running down the little girl's terrified face spoke to me of all the violence we commit in word and deed against one another – sometimes in the name of our God whose passionate desire is for the wellbeing and flourishing of all.
Expressions of concern and prayer have poured into my office from many parts of the world, in some instances from people who themselves are deeply wounded by continuing violence and bloodshed. I pray that the events of today will invite us to see ourselves as a great nation not in terms of our power and wealth but measured by our ability to be in solidarity with others where violence has made its home and become a way of life.
Yes, those responsible must be found and punished for their evil and disregard for human life, but through the heart of this violence we are called to another way. May our response be to engage with all our hearts and minds and strength in God's project of transforming the world into a garden, a place of peace where swords can become plowshares and spears are changed into pruning hooks.
The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
September 11, 2001