In an event to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center destruction and events of 9/11, global evangelical leaders came together Friday to call for unity between different groups and religions to bring about lasting change.
The World Evangelical Alliance joined with Sojourners to promote discussion surrounding the Sept. 11 tragedy that occurred 10 years ago.
Pastor Steve Stone, founder of Tennessee-based Heartsong Church, spoke about his involvement with the Muslim community.
In 2009, Stone opened his doors to the Memphis Islamic Center, allowing them to use his center for their Ramadan prayers. Despite some critics, Stone insists that working more closely with the Muslim community was a great decision.
“We feed the hungry together (and) we have had coat drives together,” Stone explained as he described work the two faith groups have carried out together.
According to Stone, a friendship park is being built on the property in an attempt to share land and blur the boundaries between the two religions.
The Rev. David P. Gushee agreed with Stone’s sentiments, and spoke about the importance of eliminating religious affiliations for the greater good of mankind.
“One of the things we’ve learned over the last 10 years is we can’t afford not to know each other across the religious boundary lines.”
He added: “So one positive result of this tragedy has been the building of relationships between Christians and Muslims and Jews and others.”
“New York is a diverse city and that is a strength, not a weakness,” said the Rev. Floyd Flake, senior pastor of Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral. “This city came together in an unprecedented way after the attacks. It’s time for our country to live up to our motto, ‘Out of Many, One.’ We are at our best as a country when people who are different can live together in peace.”
Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis said, “America must be a safe place for all our citizens in all their diversity. When we protect and respect those who share national origins, ethnicity, or religion with those who attacked us, we model for the world the best America has to offer.”
“A lot of people are used to seeing bad religion,” added Wallis. “But the answer to bad religion is not to have no religion or exclude religion entirely, as some have done, but to practice and preach better religion.”
Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO and secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance, said there are already places around the world that have embraced the union of Muslim and Christian culture.
“I could point to hundreds of examples around the world where Christians are reaching out to those of a different faith in caring for the poor, no matter what their faith or lack of faith may be,” Tunnicliffe said during the conference on Friday. “We have to create a new way together, the old way should not be there.”
The World Evangelical Alliance is made up of 128 national evangelical alliances located in 7 regions and 104 associate member organizations and global networks. The WEA is the world's largest association of evangelical Christians serving a constituency of 600 million people.
Tunnicliffe called for unity, saying: “The terrorist attacks on 9/11 may have hit the United States but they shook the whole world.
“What can we do to create a better world that is more hopeful and seeks to end these cycles of violence? There is a growing acknowledgement within our global evangelical community that we must build bridges of friendship and trust across ethnic, cultural, and religious divides. This is not based upon sociological or political reasons but rather on the example of Christ who broke down barriers and commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves.”