Yesterday afternoon, St Steven's Episcopal Church of Harrisburg, hosted the 3rd Annual Interfaith Commemoration of 9/11. The afternoon was cool and misty, but over 100 people gathered to listen to talks given by representatives of many faiths, including Baptist, Catholic, Baha'i, Buddhist, Islam, Jewish and Hindu, as well as several historical perspectives on memory and healing.
As I listened, I held in my hands a copy of my own talk, and wondered what I might have to add to the beautiful voices of diversity and faith.
Words of Dr. Martin Luther King, words of Gandi, words of Bahaulla, words from the Torah and from the New Testament, the word of Shakyamuni Buddha--words chanted, recited and sung. My heart pounded loudly, because I am not a natural speaker before a crowd, but as I listened, my heart began to calm, because one word kept reaching my ears--compassion.
Compassion, the foundation of Buddhist practice, the fountain of our daily equanimity and loving kindness, the foundation of our most intimate and shared conscious action, the horse we ride into every territory that terrifies us, repels us, confounds us.
Each of us yesterday had a specific language to articulate compassion's role in our faith tradition, and like a gorgeous fabric woven on a loom, the golden strands of thought, philosophy, poetry and mystery were visible as we wove a shawl of peace and tolerance. Woven like a prayer shawl, even as it was being created, I could feel the shawl draping effortlessly over all of us in the congregation, connecting us beneath its weightless safety, all included, none turned away.
I felt honored to be included in such fine company, and only hope that those who would denounce other faiths and close their ears to the truth of our interconnection, our interbeing, could step back for a split second to reconsider their denouncement.
That step back is where compassion is born.
If you would like more information on the Interfaith Alliance of Pennsylvania, please check out their website at