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Press Conference, Packer Memorial Church

Friday, September 14, 2001

Statements from Lehigh Valley Religious Leaders Opposing Attitude of Hatred and Acts of Disrespect or Violence Toward Muslims or Persons of Arabic Background

Statement by Rev. Dr. Lloyd Steffen, University Chaplain, Lehigh University
The tragic events of September 11 have shocked a nation and visited all persons of good will with a terrible loss.  Expressions of sympathy are pouring forth from every community around our country and from nations around the world to the families and loved ones of the victims of Tuesday's violence.  These events have also inflicted terrible suffering on families in the Lehigh Valley, some of whom live in the bewildering anxiety of not knowing what has happened to family members and loved one's who may have been directly affected by Tuesday's terrorist acts.

 he religious community of the Lehigh Valley, while diverse in belief and practice of faith traditions, has been able to find bonds of unity despite differences among us.  It is our belief that we can speak with one voice in expressing hope that there will be yet more survivors found.  We can speak with one voice in condemning such violence as occurred Tuesday in New York, Washington, D.C., and Somerset County, PA.  We can speak with one voice in urging all people of faith to offer prayer for our nation while offering comfort to the many victims of Tuesday's attack.

It appears from initial investigations that the perpetrators of Tuesday's violence may be from the Middle East.  It also appears that around the nation attitudes of hatred and even acts of violence are beginning to be directed by Americans at other Americans or foreign nationals among us who are Muslims and persons of Arabic background.  This kind of reaction of anger and hostility is unworthy of our American ideals of tolerance and inclusivity; it is a betrayal of a covenant of respect that all persons of good will owe to Muslims and persons of Arabic background who live among other Americans as neighbors, friends, colleagues-as brothers and sisters.

As grief turns to anger in the days ahead, as the body count rises, it is possible that incidents of abuse and disrespect toward Muslims and persons of Arabic background may increase.  Representatives of various faith traditions in the Lehigh Valley have agreed to interrupt schedules and on short notice come together this day to say with one voice that hatred and violence have no place here.  With one voice we condemn any attitude of hatred or act of disrespect or violence that may be directed at our neighbors, colleagues, friends,-brothers and sisters in faith-who may be Muslim or of Arabic background.  Such attitudes, such acts, have no place in the practice of religious faith.

It is said these days that America was attacked this week.  That may be so.  But our neighbors and friends, our colleagues and brothers and sisters in faith from the Islamic community, were not the attackers.  We join together with them, as they join with all other persons of good will, in sorrow and grief for all that has this week been lost.

I would now offer statements from Rabbi Allen Juda, of Bethlehem, a statement of the Easton Area clergy and a statement from the Islamic Society of North America.  (see below)

I would then invite those who have gathered here this day to offer their statements of support for the Muslims and persons of Arabic background among us.

Persons scheduled to appear:

Dr. Muhamad Bugaighis, President of the Muslim Center of the Lehigh Valley
Father Richard Ford, Ecumenical Officer, representing Allentown Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church
Rev. David Wickman, Moravian Church Central Office
Dean William Lane, Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem (Representing the Bishop of the Bethlehem diocese),
Rev. Toby Hollaman, Penn NE United Church of Christ, Associate Conference Minister
Rev. Katherine Ziel, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (Bishop's Office)s
Rev. Edith Roberts, St. Peters Lutheran Church
Rev. Helen Cochorane, Director, Bethlehm Council of Churches
Rev. Robert Wilt, Fritz Memorial Methodist Church (representing Superintendent's Office)
Ms. Mary Lou Hatcher, Clerk, Friends Meeting, Bethlehem
Father Wayne Killian, Director, Newman Center Lehigh University
Rev. Chris Giesler, Chaplain, Moravian College

Statement by Rabbi Allen Juda, Congregation Brith Sholom, Bethlehem
In traditional Jewish literature, the Rabbis asked: "Why, when the world was created, did God create just one man, Adam, and one woman, Eve?  The Rabbis then answered: "so that all humankind would come from a single union, to teach us that we are all brothers and sisters."  Especially during these traumatic times, we should all remember this lesson - ultimately, we are all brothers and sisters.
 The Jewish community of the Lehigh Valley condemns any discriminatory behavior and, particularly at this time, any prejudice demonstrated against Moslems or Arabs.  The cowardly terrorists who have attacked us this week have already claimed too many innocent victims.  We should not add to their bigotry and violence by engaging in any more.  The terrorists murdered as a result of baseless hatred.  Baseless hatred is always destructive and has no place on a college campus or anywhere else in a civilized society

Greater Easton Clergy Association and sent to the Morning Call and Express-Times
To the Editor:
We mourn the loss of innocent people and stand with their families and loved ones in their grief and with all who have suffered as a result of the attack on our nation Sept. 11.
The most important institution in this country can never be destroyed. It is Democracy itself, with its commitment to the sanctity of all human life. The tragic events of Sept. 11 have precipitated in some, however, a response of ultra-nationalism and xenophobia that violates
the principles upon which our nation was founded. We reject all efforts to use this attack on our national institutions as a justification so smear any people or nation with hateful labels. We are all capable of nurturing hatred and we all work hard to control our baser passions.
Those responsible for the terrible events of last Tuesday deserve to be brought to justice. But, while we applaud all efforts to punish the guilty, we also call upon our nation to help in every way it can to ameliorate conditions of poverty and despair, at home and abroad, that
can make terrorism an attractive alternative.
Our greatest security can only be in a world where all people have avenues to achieve human dignity.
Sincerely,
The Greater Easton Clergy Association

Islamic Society of North America
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  9/11/2001
ISNA JOINS IN CONDEMNING TERRORIST ATTACKS

(Plainfield, IN 9/11/2001)  "The Islamic Society of North America
(ISNA), along with other Muslim organizations throughout North
America, today condemned the apparent terrorist attacks in New York
and Washington and offered condolences to the families of those who
were killed or injured."

"American Muslims utterly condemn what are apparently vicious and
cowardly acts of terrorism against innocent civilians.  We join
with all Americans in calling for the swift apprehension and
punishment of the perpetrators.  No political cause could ever be
assisted by such immoral acts."
 
Signatories:
>American Muslim Alliance
>American Muslim Council
>Association of Muslim Scientists and Engineers
>Association of Muslim Social Scientists
>Council on American-Islamic Relations
>Islamic Medical Association of North America
>Islamic Circle of North America
>Islamic Society of North America
>Ministry of Imam W. Deen Mohammed
>Muslim American Society
>Muslim Public Affairs Council