September always brings the memory of 9/11, an event more than 20 years ago that raised fears for the future of our global world. Two airplanes flew into the World Trade Center in New York City. It was an unforgettable event of hate and revenge.
Four years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the memorial, consisting of two huge pools of water representing the two towers destroyed by the attack. On all sides, water cascades down to form enormous pools, which disappear into smaller, deeper squares in the centre. The names of those who died are engraved into dark, stone ridges around the outer squares.
It is a special place—of peace, of beauty, of sorrow, and of hope. I stopped at a small kiosk to purchase mementos of this historic memorial. One is a small bag with the inscription, ‘LOVE is stronger than Hate’. On a card attached to the bag, a brief description explains that this sentence is the trademark of an organization called ‘New York Says Thank You Foundation.’ On the day after the 9/11 tragedy, “the kindness and compassion of people from all across the world prove that LOVE is stronger than hate… actions big and small that bring people together to transform tragedy into hope are living proof that LOVE is stronger than hate.”
We need to hear those words today in our countries, our cities, and our neighbourhoods. Hate has always existed in our world, sometimes in subtle ways and sometimes in open hostility.
There was a two-part, extensive article in the Hamilton Spectator at the beginning of June entitled, ‘Hate is now in the Public Square.’ This headline was under a photo of seven men raising their fists in a Nazi salute. They are members of a neo-Nazi group called ‘Nationalist-13’. They started with only a handful of members but now have more than 1,000 followers on the internet. Their targets are anyone different in race, religion, culture, ancestry, or sexual orientation.
There is a rising tide of hate in Ontario according to police and advocacy groups. The article presents a long list of hate incidents ranging from death threats to public harassments to offensive graffiti. An example was the graffiti spray painted on the Harriet Tubman elementary school in St. Catharines. Harriet Tubman was the famous conductor of the underground railroad who led enslaved people from the United States to freedom in Canada. Her statue in the schoolyard was covered in paint and racial slurs were painted at its base. What motivates people to damage a school for young children?
People are not born with hatred in their hearts; they are taught hate by others. One of the incredible aspects of hatred is the self-righteous attitude of people who claim the right to hate others because they are different. If you are different, they decide you are bad for their neighbourhood, their town, or their country. Jesus often warned about the sin of pride, because pride can turn hearts and minds away from compassion, justice, and God’s love for all people.
• Do we speak out against the injustice suffered by those who have no voice? • Do we seek mutual understanding among religions?
• Do we support strangers in our communities?
• Do we speak up to support the dignity of others regardless of their differences?
Each one of us can contribute to the strengthening of love through actions big and small which promote understanding, respect, and dignity. Each one of us can counteract the power of hate by our compassion and support for others in our neighbourhoods and in countries far away.
We can remember that the terrible act of hatred on September 11, 2001, gave rise to actions big and small that brought people together from many walks of life all across the world to transform tragedy into hope as living proof that LOVE is stronger than Hate.