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Religious tolerance urged in 9/11 discourse


4:00 P.M. EDT August 16, 2011

Religious symbols  of three faiths .  A web-only photo courtesy of Ohio Wesleyan University/Chris Gong.
Religious symbols of three faiths . A web-only photo courtesy of Ohio Wesleyan University/Chris Gong.

An interfaith association of more than 400 religion communicators from the Baha’i, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faith communities is taking the lead in reinforcing the need for conversation rather than confrontation as the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks nears.

With the broad representation of religions in the United States today, it’s important to listen “and respect each other’s beliefs,” said Laura Flippen Tenzel, vice president of the Religion Communicators Council.

“If we can invite each other to communicate and to share beliefs, but yet not impose our beliefs on them, I think we have the potential of building trust. And with trust, we can build a better world, ” said Tenzel, who is communications coordinator for the United Methodist Endorsing Agency, Division of Ordained Ministry, Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

The council’s 17-member board of governors issued a resolution after an August meeting in Philadelphia, asking for civility, accuracy and tolerance in the 9/11 reporting and discussions.

Laura Flippen Tenzel. A UMNS web-only photo courtesy of Laura Flippen Tenzel.
Laura Flippen Tenzel. A UMNS web-only photo courtesy of Laura Flippen Tenzel.

Martha Taylor, communications director of the United Methodist Arkansas Annual (regional) Conference, said part of what inspired her was a presentation to the RCC board by the Rev. Nicole Diroff of the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia. Diroff talked about how the organization helps youth and young adults develop a deeper understanding of their beliefs and learn how to partner with others to improve their communities.

The “Resolution on Civil Discourse During the 10th Anniversary of 9/11” acknowledges that anniversary observances will “bring about painful recollections of terrorism and its effects.” Such pain and anger can become distorted around the religious identity of the “participants in those heinous acts.”

The communicators encouraged faith groups and religion communicators to “adhere to the highest ethical guidelines in the communication of religious faith and values in public discourse and to foster understanding among faith groups.”

“We felt it was appropriate and timely to remind people that unity brings peace,” said James “Jay” Rollins, director of communications and marketing for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

Board members want to “stay ahead of some of the negativity” that might occur, explained Royya James, conference relations coordinator for United Methodist Communications, and instead promote the idea that the anniversary could help bring about unity.

One of the points the communicators want to emphasize is that news coverage of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedy should reflect the need for understanding and dialogue among all Americans and not distort religious views or promote religious intolerance.

“Let’s be careful about attacking people or ideas or groups of people without examining the facts,” Taylor said.

Martha Taylor. A UMNS web-only file photo.
Martha Taylor. A UMNS web-only file photo.

In its statement, the RCC board of governors “urges all who report and record news and register, edit or publish opinions about faith communities and religious commitments to adhere to the highest ethical standards of their craft and pursue accuracy, respect and understanding of people of all faiths and faith communities.”

The resolution reflects two council priorities, said Douglas Cannon, RCC past president and assistant professor in the department of communication at Virginia Tech. It encourages excellence in news coverage of faith issues and promotes an appreciation of diverse faith groups.

“We knew that anniversary stories about the 2001 attacks could present wide perspectives on religion, particularly Islam,” he noted. “We wanted to highlight the need for accuracy and fairness as well as balance in covering the faith angle.”

Deb K. Christian, council president and management team leader for UMR Communications in Dallas, also encouraged its membership and their faith groups to consider adopting similar resolutions.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York. Follow her at http://twitter.com/umcscribe.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Showing 13 comments

  • methodistbill 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    What's funny is that the entire article fails to recognize the biblical tradition.  I seem to remember Elijah saying, "How long will you waver between two opinions?"  When Jesus took the disciples to Caesarea Philippi, he posed the question, "Who do you say that I am?"  That question was asked against the backdrop of religious pluralism in a city where Romans, Greeks, and Canaanites worshiped and honored their pantheon of gods through violence (child sacrifice), sex (temple prostitution), and debauchery (drunkenness).  Hades, the god of the underworld, had the largest shrine.  He was basically the god of death.  So against diverse religious backdrop, Jesus didn't call for tolerance.  He didn't call for more conversation.  He called for exclusivity.  Not only that, but he called the church to confront that culture (the gates of Hades will not prevail against it).  When we do, it is in that kind of world that Christ will build his church.  So once again, I'd say the United Methodist Church has really missed the mark.  
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  • Dr 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    The reality is, 9-11 was caused by a particular brand within Islam.  Most Christians do not associate themselves with the Christianity of the Crusades or Salem Witch Trials.  But....just say ANYING bad about Muslims and our UMC leaders will brand you an intolerant hate monger.  But, the fact is there is a large faction within Islam that fully supports the violent spread of that religion.
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  • CoffeeSmellr 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    I have read your comments, and they sadden me.  Shall we impose on our neighbors, our own understanding of religions and cultures?  I pray, we all seek the example of Love, set forth by our professed Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  As He traversed, He showed great Love and Mercy on those whom others had rejected:  lepers, prostitutes, thieves, murderers, etc.  If we truly believe in His works, how then, can we judge first those of various religious beliefs and those of different cultures?  It may be easier to explain with food.  My husband is a Vietnam Vet, and has acquired a taste for Korean food, especially kimchi.  While we searched a Korean food market, we saw several items which would seem distasteful to our palates; however, does that make our food more agreeable to them?  Not at all.  Shall I judge these kindhearted people for their choices in cuisine?  I think not!  We all have cultural differences, yet we do not embrace and partake of them.  Obviously, different cultures will inevitably produce, different belief systems.  In my studies of various religions, I have discovered LOVE is/has been a primary foundation of all faiths.  As Christians, we MUST walk in Jesus' footsteps, or at least, try.
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  • James4419 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    As Christians we are called to be civil, and we are called to be an influence on the world we live in.  I hope this Christian love, the kind that calls us to let others believe as they choose, doesn't lead to luke warm beliefs in our own faith.  There is a balance point that needs to be observed - we too have the right to our faith, and I do not mean a watered down version of it.
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  • CoffeeSmellr 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Dear James- Was Jesus "lukewarm" when He showed love and mercy to the prostitute, the leper, the thief, the murderer, etc.?  Surely, He too, conjured up doubt and dismay, among His followers.  In my opinion, it is this Love and this example of Love, that we should follow.  Upon accepting this realization, we shall all overcome any doubt, for He shall be among us who endeavor to keep His truth alive.  I understand your concerns, yet, I personally believe in Love First, and that all else shall crumble, as most is based on man's own interpretations of religions, cultures, etc., and that, my friend, is very limited.
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  • Tim Temple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    These Muslims whom God loves need help.  Their Koran can create Jihadists from moderate Muslims by itself.  That's what happened to Major Hasan and Naser Abdo in America.  We need to help them change their Koran to be tolerant so we can live in peace.  Chapter 9 especially promotes all sorts of evil against Jews, Christians and Muslims who don't support Jihad.  We need a committee to advertise for moderate Muslims to come help change the Koran like we have changed the Christian Bible.
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  • James Buckner 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    What a great witnessing opportunity!  Yes, let's get together and tell them about the true God.  Oh, or were you going to let them die in their sins?
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  • interfaith1 2 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    The intent of the resolution was to call all to civility and accuracy in the discussion and reporting of the events related to the 10-year anniversary of this tragic event. Faith is such an important part of life. How can we learn to understand one another's faith if we don't have discourse and we can't have discourse if we are shouting and flinging angry and possibly inacurrate information around.
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  • Tim Temple 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Bypass discourse.  Read the Koran for yourself with an open mind.
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  • 1DaveDoug1 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    I think we should repent for taking prayer & Bible out of school and allowing so much toleration. What would John Wesley have said about all our talk of toleration?
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  • NMex 3 comments collapsed Collapse Expand
    You all should be ashamed of yourselves - you are supposed to be making disciples for Christ not giving pagans a forum for conversation.  We don't need to talk about 9/11.  The event is over and doesn't need a bunch of whiny, hand-wringing libs rehashing it over and over.  We know who did it - Muslim extremists, not Christian extremists, not Jewish extremists, not B'hai extremists, not Hindu extremists - Muslim extremists.  So now we know who to watch out for- Muslim extremists (not all Muslims).  There is nothing to talk about - these extremist Muslim nut jobs are nuts and no amount of talking will help anything.  Stop wasting your organization's money by your constant hand-wringing and whining.
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  • CoffeeSmellr 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    Dear NMex - Sadly, there are extremists in every religion and/or culture.  One could only open a history book and find many accounts of such things.  Many American Indians were wiped out, even after teaching life skills to their newly-found "friends".  My recent memory of atrocities in the name of Jesus, were the witch hunts in Africa, which I understand, are on the rise.  Those who profess to be Christians, are maiming/mutilating/killing children, in the name of our Precious Savior.  From our perspective, yes, we were attacked by Muslim Extremists, but we must keep in mind, they were extremists.  As you know, we recently heard of a right-wing Christian extremist in Oslo, Norway, who killed precious children, as well.  You should read the Quran before you judge their underlying belief system.  As with many religions, there will always be extremists from every dark corner of their society.  The more I understand of various religions, the more I realize we are all practicing the same fundamental belief of loving one another.  Therefore, even though I am of Christian faith, I have started claiming my "new religion", which is Love First.  I will suggest that you read "the red print" in your Bible, as those are the professed words of Jesus, who always Loved First.  Love to You, my friend!!
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  • Doug Mackey 1 comment collapsed Collapse Expand
    NMex - it would be wonderful if we could follow your advice.  Unfortunately there are still many - inlcuding some church leaders I have come across - who continue to demonize ALL Muslims for the actions of those extremists. Some might consider those Christian leaders who are spreading this hatred of all Muslims to be extremists themselves (and I would agree) - but many others call them "Pastor" and are influenced by them.  I applaud this action by the larger CHURCH as a way to combat the unfounded hatred that is still out there and to show everyone that the UMC follows Jesus call to love everyone - not just those that are like us.
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