September 11 is coming up…a day that is seared in the memory of a generation of people. Close to 3,000 people were killed in the attacks that day, almost entirely civilian casualties (with the exception of some Pentagon personnel). Casualties included firefighters and police who were responding to the attack when the towers collapsed.
Since Sunday is the tenth anniversary of this day, there has been a lot of coverage in the media, recalling the lives of people who died, and the effect this attack still has on people. Although 3000 is the number of casualties, many more were injured, and hundreds of thousands experienced post-traumatic stress because of what they witnessed, or through injury or the loss of a loved one. It’s important for the Christian community to remember and pray for the suffering of all these people.
I have noticed, however, that there is very little coverage in the media about the deaths that were the result of the response to 9/11. The United States and others (including Canada) launched a war on terror because of this event. To not talk about the response is like trying to talk about the significance of the attack on Fort Sumter, without talking about the Civil War. (For those of you who aren’t into American history, in April 1861 the Northern United States attacked Fort Sumter in the Southern United States and that started a civil war.)
Less than a month after the 9/11 attacks, the United States and its allies attacked Afghanistan in “Operation Enduring Freedom”. That war still continues. Civilian casualties are very difficult to document in Afghanistan; I haven’t found a single source that will claim a number for the ten year war. But many more thousands of people have been killed there than were killed in the 9/11 attacks.
The war in Iraq, which began in March 2003 and still continues, was also framed by America as a war on terror. The Bush administration made allegations that Iraq had been involved in the 9/11 attacks to justify the war. Because Iraq is more modernized, statistics are available, and the numbers are staggering. There have been 100,000 – 150,000 casualties, up to 80% of these are civilian. Because of the Iraq war, 1.8 million people have become refugees from Iraq to other countries, while 1.6 million people were internally displaced.
I wonder who will make the news reports and films that document the human tragedy of these numbers. They are all God’s children; as Christians we weep with those who weep, no matter which side of the conflict they are on.
It’s tempting to make 9/11 a day where we remember how we in the West were victimized. Let’s instead make 9/11 a day of prayer, a day where we commit ourselves to work for peace between all people.
This week’s prayer: God, we weep with all who weep. We remember your American, Afghani and Iraqi children who have died; we pray for peace for our world.