Baha'i News -- ONE YEAR LATER; GAINING PERSPECTIVE; Defining religion's role after Sept. 11

ONE YEAR LATER; GAINING PERSPECTIVE; Defining religion's role after Sept. 11

The Patriot Ledger

QUINCY - Last Sept. 11 when her students at Northeastern University asked her, "How can this happen in the world?" Robin Chandler felt a familiar distress.

Chandler, chairwoman of African American studies at Northeastern, lost a family member in the horrific events that day - the plane crash at the Pentagon - but her reaction went far beyond the personal.

"I felt distress that the students didn't understand the geopolitical situation, world poverty," Chandler said yesterday at a forum in Quincy. One year later, the challenge she sees is still to overcome "the ignorance people have about the spiritual and social realities of other nations and people, many of them deprived."

"Religion must address those imbalances and teach young people what really is going on in the world," said Chandler, speaking at the event, "One World One People" highlighting spiritual reflections in a post-Sept. 11 society.

About 60 people, including families with children, attended the three-hour Interfaith event at Presidents Place. Chandler, a member of the Baha'i Faith for 30 years, was one of six panel members from different religions.

"We hope to give the spiritual perspective, to uplift rather than relive the tragedy and to help rescue the good that people gained," said Cristina Cabera, a member of the First Church of Christ Science in Quincy. Cabera, one of the organizers, said that good included helping others and putting spiritual beliefs into practice.

Besides Baha'i, the five other religions or denominations were Christian Science, the Episcopal Church, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism.

"Do not judge the religion by the act of an individual. There are good Muslims and there are bad Muslims, just as in every religion there are good and bad," urged Iman Talal Eid, religious director of the Islamic Center of New England, with mosques in Quincy and Sharon.

The program included short video interviews with people on the street who were asked four questions: How did you feel on Sept. 11, how did you respond on Sept. 11, did that response include a spiritual approach and how would you have felt if it had happened in another country?

As those interviewed expressed a range of responses, from fear to anger to grief and shock, people in the audience nodded. Joe Pollinger, 60, of Quincy, a Baha'i, said he came to the event "to feel that I belong to something greater than myself. There are more similarities than differences between all the groups here, people who look and act differently but believe in one God, one creator."

The four other panelists were the Rev. Sarah Conner, the Episcopal priest-in-charge at Christ Church in Quincy; Christine Driessen, a Christian Science practitioner/healer; Kaviraj Singh, an American-born Sikh; and, on pretaped video, Rabbi Loel M. Weiss of Temple Beth Am in Randolph, who was attending Rosh Hashana services.

"Think during this anniversary of the Muslims and what they are going through," said Norfolk County Sheriff Michael G. Bellotti, who opened the event. "We can come together and unite around shared values," including freedom of speech and freedom from religious persecution. Bellotti described the event's location across the street from the burial places of former Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams as "very appropriate."

The Andres Araica Family Singers, natives of Nicaragua, opened the program with Native American songs and drumming.

Sue Scheible may be reached at

©Copyright 2002, The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, MA)

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