The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) remembers the victims of the attack and prays once again that the memory of those who died that day will be eternal. We pray for the physical and mental healing of those who are still suffering from related injury and for the loved ones of all who died on that tragic day 20 years ago. The ashes from the destruction have dissipated but the residue remains as our lives, communities, nation, and world have changed forever.
Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed;
save me, and I shall be saved;
for you are my praise.
Jeremiah 17:14 (NRSV)
We remain grateful to all of the first responders and others who courageously acted to save lives and to help those in need as chaos and devastation ensued in New York City, Washington, D.C. (at the Pentagon), and in Shanksville, Pa. We also give thanks for the witness of the many pastors, clergy. and lay leaders who provided food, water. and shelter to those working at the crash sites; opened churches to provide sacred space to those who needed it; volunteered and offered spiritual guidance and counseling; held prayer services; and otherwise rallied to support those hurting and in need of comfort. Our nation banded together in so many meaningful ways—memories that keep us hopeful as we now struggle with historic division in our country.
The NCC cannot disregard what has happened in the U.S. and around the world since that fateful day. The U.S. invaded two nations – Afghanistan and Iraq – and is left with the ruinous aftermath of these wars. The war on terror in Iraq lasted eight years, and the country is still unstable. The war in Afghanistan is only now ending after 20 years and the future of the Afghan people is in question. The lives lost in these wars – American, Allied, Afghan, and Iraqi – measure in the hundreds of thousands. We pray for the dead, for those who mourn them, and for those left behind to pick up the pieces of their societies. May they find comfort and know God’s protection during the ongoing hostilities.
It is also impossible to ignore the bigotry and violence that was unleashed on Muslim Americans and Arab immigrants following September 11th. In response to this spreading hate, the NCC reinvigorated its Muslim-Christian dialogue, so that our Muslim neighbors would know they had widespread support within the Christian community. This was expanded into interfaith ally-ship with the Muslim community, through the inception of the Shoulder-to-Shoulder Campaign, a coalition that still works to counter anti-Muslim sentiment. The NCC pledges to continue these efforts.
During the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero and, later, the planning and construction of the new One World Trade Center, the U.S. demonstrated a spirit of camaraderie. As we mark the occasion of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we implore our fellow Americans to remember our past goodwill and to work towards ending the toxic divisions in our country. The many issues that face us—not the least of which is the continuing deadly spread of the COVID-19 virus, anti-Black racism, growing anti-immigrant sentiments, Christian nationalism and white supremacy, racial hatred against Indigenous and Asian and Pacific Islanders, increasing economic disparities, voter suppression, climate change, and mass incarceration—demand our collective response and beckon us in this moment to reiterate our commitment to working together to bring about justice, reconciliation, and healing in this fractured world.
Acknowledging these challenges which we are called to address, the NCC and our member communions envision what can be built through dialogue, collaboration, and prayer and commit to continue our work to bring justice and hope to all people.
The NCC and its member churches look forward to later this year, when the Church of St. Nicholas, the only house of worship destroyed at Ground Zero on that day, reopens. We will join our member communion, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, as it celebrates the opening of the doors of this resurrected parish community (and now national shrine) to the world.
As we are all children of God, we urge one another to clear the ruins and to build anew, recognizing that each of us is fully human and made in the image of God.