“Overcoming the Danger of Beliefs with the Power of Right Views”
On Wednesday, September 7th, 2011, an assembly of government officials, religious leaders and more than 200 attendees gathered together in Saratoga to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Among them were Mr. Dave Cortese, President of the Board of Supervisors of Santa Clara County and Mr. Kansen Chu, San Jose City Councilman. As board member of the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council (SiVIC) and representing the Buddhist Tradition, JianHu Shifu joined three other religious leaders (Catholic, Jewish and Islamic) as speakers of the night, calling for unity and positive transformation in the face of tragedy.
After a friendly reception, the program began with welcoming speeches by the event partners, followed by the viewing of executive producer Sean Penn's critically acclaimed documentary “Love Hate Love”. The uplifting film depicts the true stories of three families torn apart by terrorism and yet they were able to turn suffering into compassion and healing, setting the tone of the event: “Transformation through Community Engagement”, a most inspiring way to honor the victims and all those who lost their lives trying to save others on the tragic day of 9/11.
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Supervisor Dave Cortese served as the event Master of Ceremony. He addressed the audience by denouncing terrorism as intimidation and traumatizing in the name of power, but our response should be that of “love, forgiveness and hope”, and these terms of endearment were rooted in faith traditions. He then called up an interfaith procession of more than 30 religious leaders, local officials and first responders to go on stage. The presence of police, fire and paramedic officials alongside representatives of the interfaith community was a precious moment of solidarity and harmony.
The highlight of the event was the moving speeches given by Father Jon Pedigo (Catholic tradition), Rabbi Dana Magat (Jewish tradition), Imam Aladdin El Bakri (Islamic tradition) and JianHu Shifu. Father Pedigo challenged the audience to confront fear and overcome fear with love. He stated that one could move beyond fear by making a decision to love because “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear.” – 1st Letter of John. Rabbi Magat reflected on the positive changes that could stem from horrible events, “the beautiful flower that grows from ashes”. For good things to come out of tragedy, people should open their hearts to learn from one another and see how much they have in common – “we are all children of God and we are all interconnected”. As an Arab and a Muslim, Imam El Bakri said he was hit hard emotionally by the event of 9/11 and as he spoke directly from his heart, he urged us to bond together and that we must embrace love and forgiveness to overcome terrorism. The truth will be found with a big heart and with patience, and the prospect of pursuing a good life and good afterlife can only be achieved through selflessness.
To elucidate the root of violence and how to overcome it, JianHu Shifu quoted the teaching of the Buddha: “The most dangerous thing in the world is beliefs--our views, and the most powerful thing in the world is also our beliefs.” The 9/11 tragedy is an example of how harmful dangerous beliefs (extreme ideology) can be. Shifu had talked to a lady at the beginning of the event and learned that 90% school children had been subjected to or witnessed bullying. Shifu drew a connection between bullying and terrorism--both have the dangerous view that overpowering others with violence is okay, only one is carried to extreme. The first of the Eightfold Noble Paths is “right view”, which is to see clearly the interdependent relationship we have with each other. With right view and right understanding, truth, wisdom, compassion and the path to liberation follows naturally. What made the 9/11 families in the film extraordinary? Because they believed something good can come out of something evil. We can all be extraordinary like them.
The event concluded with a final song and images of hope and unity flashing on screen. As participants gradually streamed out of the auditorium with hearts wide open, the seeds of friendship and hope began to germinate silently from the ashes of the 9/11 tragedy.
Videos from 9/11 Commemoration: