Bahai News - Terror In America: Prayers, tears, silence

Terror In America: Prayers, tears, silence: a day of mourning and solidarity that stretched from Belfast to Beirut: Day Of Remembrance: Anger mixes with grief on a day of global remembrance

A SOMBRE President George Bush and four former presidents yesterday led the American nation in a day of remembrance for the thousands who lost their lives in the terror attacks on New York and Washington.

Mr Bush, joined by his father George Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, took part in a prayer service at Washington's National Cathedral. But Mr Bush injected an angry tone into the sorrow of the memorial.

"We are here in the middle hour of our grief. So many have suffered so great a loss and today we express our nation's sorrow," said Mr Bush, who wore a pale-blue tie with his dark suit.

"We come today before God to pray for the missing and the dead and for those who love them." But he added: "This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger."

An e-mail circulating on the internet urged the public to stop whatever it is they would be doing today at 7pm and light a candle to show the world Americans are strong and united against terrorism.

Fliers were being handed out in New York and in other cities, encouraging people to turn out for vigils. As it grew dark in America on the Moslem and Jewish day of prayer, people of all faiths gathered for the candlelight vigils, from San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, where more than 3,000 were due to gather for an inter-faith service, to New York's main Catholic cathedral, St Patrick's.

Catholic priests and other clergy of all faiths have counselled the bereaved at New York's Armory where the main centre for the relatives has been established.

Joe Zwilling, a spokesman for St Patrick's, said: "A number of priests have also been to police and fire stations to minister to these people whose work is so difficult emotionally."

"We even have a priest, Father Murray, who has been riding his bicycle around to the hospitals," he added.

But at some vigils, where people held up signs saying "war is not the answer", there was a robust response. A group of students told one such objector: "If you don't want to stand behind our president, get the fuck out of the country."

Billy Graham, the evangelist, who is suffering from Parkinson's disease, made a rare public appearance at the National Cathedral ceremony.

"Today we say to those who masterminded this cruel polt and to those who carried it out, the spirit of this nation will not be defeated by their twisted and diabolical schemes," he said.

Americans must chose whether to implode and disentigrate as America or become stronger and rebuild, he said.

"All people of faith want to say to this nation and to the world that love is stronger than hate," said the Rev Jane Holmes Dixon, the Episcopal bishop of Washington. "And love lived out in justice will in the end prevail."

She urged mourners to use the cathedral as a "container for your grief."

Bush was joined by former presidents Clinton, Bush, Carter and Ford, along with members of Congress and cabinet members. Before the service started and between readings, musicians performed "God Bless America" and sang "America the Beautiful." A Muslim cleric was among the clergy who spoke.

Arab-Americans and Muslims have been targets of revenge assaults around the country since Tuesday's destruction. In Richmond, Virginia, chapel doors of the First Baptist Church opened for prayers and solace as dawn broke on the national day of remembrance, called by Bush to memorialize the victims of Tuesday's terrorist attacks.

"We will pray for our city, we will pray for our nation and we will pray for all the people whose lives have been lost," the Rev Peter Jamer Flamming said.

At a morning service in Connecticut, Governor John Rowland spoke of a Roman Catholic priest he knew who died on United Airlines flight 175 from Boston to Los Angeles, which crashed into the World Trade centre.

Rowland called the Rev Francis Grogan a friend and mentor, who encouraged the governor to deepen his faith and service his community. If Grogan were still here, he would ask us to be "persuaded by our better natures," Rowland said.

"With the heart of our nation bursting with sadness, we must ask God for the courage to carry on," he said.

In proclaiming Friday a national day of prayer and remembrance, Mr Bush urged community groups and places of worships nationwide to hold noontime memorial services, ring bells and set aside time for candlelight vigils. He also encouraged employers to let their workers off to attend.

"All our hearts have been seared by the sudden and senseless taking of innocent lives," Mr Bush said. "We pray for healing and for the strength to serve and encourage one another in hope and faith."

In Dallas, people will hold hands and sing at the Baha'i Centre and recite the prayer that a Baha'i leader wrote after he visited the United States in 1912. It asks God to "confirm this revered nation" and "make it precious and near to thee".

"All the members who are moved to say prayers can stand and say prayers," said Kambiz Rafraf, a Baha'i spokesman. The religion focuses on spiritual growth and solving society's ills.

Members of the Islamic Centre of Long Island - stunned by the many revenge assaults on Muslims - will hold the second of three services for victims of the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. They also will collect donations for the American Red Cross.

"We're hurting, too, and we're also Americans," said Arshad Majid, a member of the centre. "There were Muslim lives lost in that building, as well. We're all human and we need to get together."

Lama Surya Das of the Dzogchen Centre, plans a Buddhist service in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The program will include the loving kindness/compassion meditation prayer and the six syllable jewel-in-the-lotus mantra.

"It's in memory of the victims and the sufferings of all and a plea not to perpetuate even more violence," Das said. "It's a plea for restraint, moderation and reason and healing and praying for peace."

©Copyright 2001, Independent - London

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