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Out of the Ashes — A Sanctuary of Peace

InterfaithNews.Net cofounder Joel Beversluis calls for an interfaith peace sanctuary at the site of the World Trade Center in New York City.

By Joel Beversluis

When the media replay footage from 9/11, what do we see? What feelings are we reinforcing — or numbing?

And when educators present that hard lesson in the schools, what will our children see and feel and draw? Educators report that they're still making pictures of exploding planes and towers. Especially for children, images have power for good or ill. We understand, don't we, that we must try to replace those repetitious and fearsome pictures with healing images?

So, let's instead raise up new images, symbols of hope that can reinvigorate the ideals of peace and understanding.

For instance, let's imagine together a place of inter-religious healing, a place where peace-making is blessed, a sanctuary rising out of the ashes. Imagine it rendered in sand or clay or paint, in colors, sounds or stories.

Take a moment: What would an interfaith sanctuary of peace look like? A temple, a church, a mosque, a garden, a fountain, a wall, a bridge?

Besides restoring emotional health, creative and life-giving images can provide opportunities for reflection, dialogue and learning. They may also help shape the memorial at Ground Zero.

Like the Center for World Thanksgiving in downtown Dallas, this Sanctuary could be an oasis of inter-religious and inter-cultural understanding and appreciation.

What words and sounds give it life? Can you hear a mass? a concert? a call to prayer?

Like the Interfaith Chapel at the Presidio — formerly a military base chapel — Ground Zero, a symbol of powers in conflict, can become a place where peace is revered, inspired by the holiest wisdom we can find.

What wisdom is that? An interfaith Sanctuary can identify it in the world's religions and spiritual traditions, which serve as repositories of the wisdom of humanity, inspired, many believe, by the Divine.

Sanctuary can also be a memorial to those of so many faiths who died that September day. And a memorial as well to so many more who have faced the terror of wars since then. Like Auschwitz or Hiroshima, this Sanctuary can also be a place for prayer and commitment: Never Again! This shrine can honor people of all faiths and philosophies who live and work together in many places for the common good. Who are they and what are they doing?

A sacred place such as this can inspire all those — young and old, rich and poor, religious and secular — who can grasp the dream and the seek the details of a more peaceful world.

Can we transform the fears and pride that lead to war? How can we make peace with the Earth?

Add your creative juices to this process! Where's your passion? You and your networks can help the healing. And you can join a groundswell of support for a Sanctuary of Peace. With your help, voices and visions will rise up in classrooms, religious and spiritual communities, interfaith organizations, civic groups, and in the media.

With your help, "movers and shakers," financiers and politicians, religious and spiritual leaders, interfaith organizations in New York, and people of good will everywhere can be dreaming-into-being new ways of living together — symbolized by our visions of a Sanctuary of Peace.

Out of the ashes and compost and water beneath the city streets, let's plant and raise up some new life!

Readers are invited to develop or encourage Sanctuary projects in schools, congregations, and organizations.

You may also want to pass this proposal or your Sanctuary vision on to others in your network, to Mayor Bloomberg of New York, President George Bush, influential philanthropists, elected representatives, educators and religious leaders.

Thank you.

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