Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. - John 14:27
These past ten years have been unlike any decade in American history. Of course, the road hasn't exactly been smooth. We have been through a LOT - two wars, two recessions, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and countless scandals affecting corporate, governmental, and even religious entities. My grandfather died in 2004.
Nonetheless, we have also had some bright moments. Shortly after September 11, we learned about the heroism of our police, firefighters, and troops. The election of our current President was one of the most inspiring moments of my lifetime. I graduated from high school in 2005 and from college in 2010.
People have been asking what we have learned in the past decade. If there's anything these past ten years have taught me, it's that Helen Keller was right:
Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.
And - most importantly - that overcoming of suffering begins with us.
After September 11, most of us felt a wide range of emotions: Sadness, confusion, fear, anger, hopelessness.
No two of us humans are alike, which is why we all reacted in our own unique ways. So many people, including myself, turned to prayer. Others gave money, blood, and time to help those who had been affected (though being in high school, I was only able to give a dollar or two). Unfortunately, some reacted in all the wrong ways, including taking out their fears on Muslims and Arabs.
There are many things I wish were different about the past decade, one of which is that I wish more people would have learned about viewpoints other than their own. That includes religious viewpoints.
We see the hostility all the time: Islam equated with terrorism, Christianity equated with intolerance, Catholic priests stereotyped as pedophiles, atheists accused of having no morals, religion as a whole being blamed for the world's problems.
Perhaps some of that is because the attackers ten years ago tried to usurp the name of God to justify their hatred. But it would seem to me that, whether these "bastards" (as Carl Levin called them) had been Muslims, Christians, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics, or whatever, they still would have committed these atrocities.
Either way, we all need to understand that there is NOTHING inherently violent about any of the world's religions. All are based on tolerance, love, and peace.
We all need to understand that there is NOTHING about not believing in God that makes one any less tolerant, loving, or peaceful than the Pope.
We need tolerance.
We need love.
We need peace.
Tolerance, love, and peace are the best responses to whatever challenges - natural or man-made - we as humans face.
For those of you who do believe in prayer, I offer this Catholic prayer for all those who died on that horrible day 10 years ago, and all of the troops and innocent civilians who have died in the ensuing wars:
Eternal rest Grant Unto Them, O Lord,
And Let Perpetual Light shine upon them.
May their souls, and all the souls of the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.