Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they will be called children of God
September 1, 2010
Dear United Methodists of the New York Annual Conference:
I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer, the Prince of shalom, Healer of our brokenness, and Hope of the world!
The controversy over constructing the 51 Park Islamic Community Center and mosque near the Ground Zero has generated a heated dispute. Understandably emotions run high as it touches the nerves of both the sacredness of the ground and one of our most fundamental national principles. Among the diverse voices expressed are those that reflect racism, religious discrimination, and hate: these must be rejected, for they cause harm and undermine the very foundation upon which this nation is built.
I resonate with the voices that express sensitivity toward the families and friends of the victims of 9/11 by questioning the appropriateness and wisdom of the choice of location of the building. I believe that some of these voices come out of a sincere desire to preserve the sanctity of the Ground Zero, to seek justice with regard to those who are responsible for the atrocity, and to build a bridge among the Muslims and the Islamic community with the larger community. Other voices have expressed fear and resentment and opinion that the diabolic extremists who brought death and destruction on 9/11 could claim the building as their trophy. Arguments can be made that granted the right intentions, building an Islamic center and mosque near the Ground Zero can have the opposite effects.
However, denying the fundamental right of a religious community, as long as it fulfills the same legal requirements applied to all other religious communities, by singling it out for the wrong reasons, compromises the integrity of who we are at our core. If allowed, a serious crack opens in the foundation of our nation. Once opened in one place, soon more will be opened in other places. It makes us less as Americans and weaker as a nation. America cannot afford it.
Based upon what is known at this time, I support the building of the 51 Park Islamic Community Center and mosque. Our hearts break over the sacrifice of the dead from 9/11 and the pains and sufferings of their loved ones and our country. However, to truly honor them, to truly preserve the historic significance of the Ground Zero, and to truly triumph over the evil force of 9/11, it is necessary to stand firm on what America believes in and be willing to pay whatever the price to protect and preserve freedom and equality for all. Our resolve to do it must grow stronger for such a time as this. It is my prayer that someday peoples of all religious communities and faith traditions will embrace the vision of liberty, peace and justice in reconciliation, harmony and mutual respect and it is incumbent upon us to do whatever we can today to hasten that day. I ask you to continue to pray that our conversation will be a positive force that reflects who we are as responsible citizens, as well as faithful Christians.
Jeremiah J. Park