Interfaith

Hymns for September 11

Many people remember "O God, Our Words Cannot Express," a hymn written on the afternoon of September 11, 2001. The hymn was quickly shared by email and Web postings (it is still on over 10,000 websites); it was used by many churches on that evening and in the days that followed. The hymn was featured in newspaper stories, radio programs, twice on national PBS-TV, and on BBC-TV in the United Kingdom. YouTube has the Church World Service music video by Emmy winner Pete Staman of this hymn being sung by Noel Paul Stookey (of "Peter, Paul & Mary") with the Northfield Mount Herman School Choir.

The new posting of this interfaith hymn includes a revised version for the 10th anniversary. Also included is "God, We've Known Such Grief and Anger", a hymn lifting up Christian hope in the face of disaster that was written for the first year anniversary of 9/11. Last week I wrote a new hymn for the tenth anniversary of September 11 with an emphasis on working for peace and justice for all.

No More Dirty Work! Clean, Green Jobs, Not Tar Sands Oil

1100802-tarsandsPresident Barack Obama will decide as early as September whether to light a fuse to the largest carbon bomb in North America. That bomb is the massive tar sands field in Canada's Alberta province. And the fuse is the 1,700-mile long Keystone XL Pipeline that would transport this dirtiest of petroleum fuels all the way to Texas refineries.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is a climate and pollution horror beyond description. From August 20 to September 3, thousands of Americans -- including Bill McKibben, Danny Glover, NASA's Dr. James Hansen, and thousands more -- will be at the White House, day after day, demanding Obama reject this tar sands pipeline.

I'm going to be there, and I hope you will join me -- we need your voice.

Partnering for a New Beginning

In 1999, I was in the midst of launching Interfaith Youth Core, the organization I lead today. One day I received an email from a young man in Jordan named Anas. He wrote, "I found your website, and I want to start an interfaith youth project."

We quickly fell into a rhythm, where I would send him our latest curriculum on interfaith service projects and he would send me photos of the projects he ran, which we would post on our website. Anas and I finally met in person when I traveled to Jordan five years later. I was there on other business and decided to look him up in my spare time, fully expecting that he had gone onto other things.

He both surprised and inspired me. He brought the latest photos on interfaith projects he was leading across the Arab regions and around the Mediterranean, and a copy of the book he had written; he told me about his plans to run for parliament.

I asked him, "Tell me how you got here." And he replied very simply, "You emailed me back."

The biggest thing Anas taught me was not the power of the Internet to connect a globalized world (though this is true) or the bridges that are built through interfaith action (though this is also true). Anas taught me that the fate of the 21st century was going to be decided not just by government-to-government relations, but by civic leader-to-civic leader relations in a global context.

President Obama affirmed this in his May speech addressing the Middle East and North Africa, saying: "The greatest untapped resource in the Middle East and North Africa is the talent of its people."

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For Gulf Coast Residents, the Oil Spill Nightmare Continues

For three months last year the Gulf Coast oil spill was the major topic of news reports all over the world. From the explosion on April 20, 2010, until the capping of the gushing well on July 15, 2010, the headlines were consumed with images and dialogue about the tragedy unfolding before our very eyes. Shortly after the news of the capping, the government reported that “most” of the oil was gone, and that things were getting back to normal. The camera crews packed up. The reporters turned in their hotel room keys and gathered their deductible tax receipts. And they all left. Kumbaya, the oil was gone, and the world was normal again. The world could move on to other, more pressing interests. That is … the rest of the world could move on to other, more pressing interests.

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