Bahai News -- City and nation mourn Sept. 15, 2001, 12:59AM

City and nation mourn


Sept. 15, 2001, 12:59AM

City and nation mourn

'This is indeed a time of prayer for us'

By TONY FREEMANTLE
Copyright 2001 Houston Chronicle

Houstonians joined Americans across the nation Friday in a day of prayer for the thousands of people who lost their lives in this week's devastating terrorist attacks.

They gathered at churches, at temples, at mosques, at chapels and in a parking lot to bow their heads, united in grief, to mourn for their nation and to denounce the hate and intolerance that gave rise to the cowardly acts that shook them to the core.

"As a people of faith, we need to remember that we -- or at least our forefathers and mothers -- have faced these times before," the Rt. Rev. Claude E. Payne, bishop of the Texas Episcopal Diocese of Texas, told an overflowing, ecumenical crowd at Christ Church Cathedral downtown. "One thing we share together is our grief. "Our world is different, remarkably different from what it was prior to the horrendous events of this past Tuesday."

The Rev. Ed Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church told a standing room-only crowd of more than 2,300 people that faithlessness in America had caused the catastrophe, that because of that lapse, God had withdrawn his protection.

Hundreds of worshippers at the Islamic Society of Greater Houston's central mosque were encouraged to dispel misinformation about Islam and demonstrate its true teachings of peace and mercy.

"We are a people whose greeting is `peace,' " said Alaa Sallam, who delivered the Friday afternoon sermon at the Eastside mosque. "You can not sit at home and say `It is not my problem.' If you are truly a Muslim, you have to take initiative."

And at a gathering at the Rothko Chapel attended by representatives of Islam, Baha'i, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Jewish faiths, about 300 people were told that the path to understanding lead to God.

"I believe right now there is no one we can lean on other than God," said the Rev. William Lawson of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. "It is important for people of all faiths, at least in part, to help us from being so vindictive and in least in part to help us know that we can still rebuild in spite of this crisis."

People of different Christian denominations filled the pews and lined the walls at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Houston to pray and find inner-strength in their religious faith. Many wore red, white and blue ribbons pinned to their lapels.

The service ended emotionally, with the singing of (ital)America the Beautiful.(end ital) Many reached for tissues and dabbed at tears.

Eric Burns, a Chase Bank employee who attended the service, said he was moved by the number of people who poured from their downtown offices at noon to seek comfort in the prayer services.

"It's community grieving," he said. "People do have to do that."

Some of those who came to pray at the central mosque Friday said in the days following the attacks, local Muslim-Americans have been concerned about a backlash.

"The first day I was looking around me and that was a very bad feeling," said Houston resident Sroor Asaduddin, who had come to the mosque to pray.

Some came so they could participate in an organized blood drive or contribute to the funds being collected for victims of the attacks.

"I lie in bed and I see the plane going into the second building," Asaduddin said. "I don't think I will ever forget that."

In his sermon, Sallam encouraged worshippers to remain involved in the community and not retreat in fear.

Sallam told faithful Muslims to tell those around them that that Islam does not condone terrorism and that only a minority of extremists twist the religion's teachings to serve political ends.

At the Texas Air National Guard's 147th Fighter Wing, airmen and women stood in the midday sun in a parking lot at their headquarters at Ellington Field and bowed their heads as the chaplain, Capt. Wayland Coe, lead them in prayer.

"This is indeed a time of prayer for us," he said. "A time to pray for our nation, for our leaders and for those who died."

Speaker after speaker at the Rothko Chapel urged the audience not to allow hate to rule the emotions and urged them to support justice.

Ann Flamn, a clinical ethicist, brought her 16-month-old daughter to the prayer service seeking some consolation for cousins still not heard from in the New York disaster. "We are in mourning in the whole country," Flamn said. "It is important to remind ourselves that we create the barriers within a community."

Houston Fire Department Chaplain Gary Blackmon extolled the efforts of hundreds of New York firefighters who lost their lives when the towers collapsed. "As the rain falls in New York City today," Blackmon said, "I pray it is an indication of the mourning going on in God's heart."

Sayeed Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, said Americans were horrified at what happened this week.

"There are physical injuries and then there are spiritual injuries. Physical injuries will eventually heal but spiritual injuries have left a scar for life. The only way to ease some of this pain is for all of us to come in the comforting shadow of almighty God, asking for his grace, asking for justice and then forgiving and being patient."

At the Congregation Beth Israel chapel, every seat was filled on Friday evening.

"On this night it is appropriate to cry," Rabbi David A. Whiman said at the Shabbat service. "This is a time of deep national anger and anxiety. But friends, this is not a time of fear."

At Houston City Hall, about 3,000 people attended a candlelight vigil Friday night.

"Life will never be quite the same again," Mayor Lee Brown said. "There is shock, grief and outrage, not only here but throughout the entire world."

Chronicle reporters Tara Dooley, Terry Kliewer, Melanie Markley and Richard Vara contributed to this story.

©Copyright 2001, Houston Chronicle


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