Bahai News - More New Yorkers turning to God in wake of attack
Saturday, September 22, 2001
More New Yorkers turning to God in wake of attack
By NICOLE SCHIAVI
Special to the Democrat
NEW YORK - While the terrorist attacks in the United States last week have
left a gap in the New York skyline and a hole in the Washington landscape,
a spiritual vacuum has also permeated the country.
From "Ground Zero" in New York to Main Street USA, many people
seeking solace are turning to a higher being for comfort and answers,
packing churches and temples for special prayer meetings and vigils.
All of these efforts, plus teachers and students praying both inside and
outside public schools, are in stark contrast to a notoriously spiritually
Congregations of diverse faiths are trying to provide some sort of peace
for people's minds.
Michael Jung, a Salvation Army volunteer who has been at Ground Zero since
the Sept. 11 attacks, has been counseling rescue workers. He said people
are searching for answers and for God.
"I have seen more people want to know who this God is than blaming him (for
the tragedy)," he said.
At Upper Room in Long Island, the 2,000-seat church was filled to capacity
Sunday. About 200 came forward to state the names of loved ones when asked
if anyone knew a person who was missing or confirmed dead after the
terrorist attacks. Congregants hugged and prayed for them.
"(The terrorists) succeeded in bringing America to its knees, but they had
no idea that when we would fall to our knees we would fall to intercede,"
said the Rev. Tony D'Onofrio. "The voice of the blood of innocent
Americans that cry from Ground Zero will not go unnoticed."
"On that fateful Tuesday, concentrated evil turned a monument into a morgue,"
he said. "Our God is like a pleading father this morning. He is crying
to America, 'I love you, I long to heal you, I long to take you into my
bosom and restore the healing of the moment.'"
Spanish churches in the city are focusing on the grief of Latino communities.
"We are seeing more and more Latinos were employed at the World Trade
Center," said the Rev. Jose Lantigue of Riverside Church in Manhattan.
Lantigue is planning an ecumenical service in Washington Heights this week
with churches of various denominations.
"Now we have to start counseling and ministering to the community - those
who were hurt individually and the community at large - because it was
widespread trauma," he said.
At Union Square where thousands have assembled nightly for vigils and to
listen to a variety of beliefs being propagated, enclaves of faith groups
have been sharing. Scientologists, Buddhists, Bahai's, Christians, world
peace groups, patriots and others not as easily categorized distribute
literature, pray with people or just preach to anyone who will listen.
Gustavo Pineiro, a 29-year-old Bronx resident, compared Union Square to a
spiritual smorgasbord, but understood the need for people to seek answers.
"People need to gain some sort of sanctity," he said.
Manhattan resident Amir Ahituv, 27, said the informal, but large gatherings
in Union Square have provided people with the opportunity to share their
"Two weeks ago, no one stopped here and talked," he said. "Now there's a
really strong energy here."
Religious leaders across the nation have debated whether these attacks were
borne out of judgment, have any spiritual implications or fulfill biblical
or other prophecies.
Israel Martinez, youth pastor at Heavenly Vision in the Bronx, did not call
the attacks judgment on the city and country, but said they are a call to
come back to God.
"Sometimes a nation has to be shaken for it to wake up," he said. "Israel
was in captivity for 70 years because it didn't listen to God's voice."
Rick Joyner, pastor of Morningstar Fellowship in Charlotte, N.C., responded
to the attacks on his Web site:
"Some Christian leaders have inferred that the attacks on the WTC and
Pentagon to have been judgment from God. I do not believe that this is true
because these attacks have all of the hallmarks of Satan, and none that
reflect the nature of God," Joyner wrote. "We need to get this straight if
we are going to know how to respond to these times, because this does
present the coming of some of our greatest challenges in history, as well
as our greatest opportunities."
Jung, working a midnight shift at Ground Zero, said the rescuers there ask
for people to pray and talk with and, "Some just ask for a hug."
"You look at some of the faces - they're so blank and pale," he said. "You
don't even know there's life in them."
Nicole Schiavi was the Portsmouth City Hall and Hampton beat reporter for
Foster's Daily Democrat from September 1994 to December 1996. She was born
and raised in New York City. Schiavi is currently a Web developer for a
company in New York City.
©Copyright 2001, The Democrat (NH)
Page last updated/revised 092301
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