The world did not change for me on 11th September 2001, I am very glad to say, but I know many people felt it did change. Those who lost loved ones in such dreadful circumstances on that day will have been engulfed in grief and for some of those their lives will have been completely shattered. Many people who were not directly affected still stopped feeling safe as they went about their daily lives. Peace-loving, law-abiding Muslims suddenly came under suspicion of being a terrorist.
Fear and misunderstanding breed hatred and even violence as a certain pastor from Florida, and the response to his threat to burn the Koran by some Muslims, have shown. It transpires that his threat was an attempt to force a group of Muslims to change their plans and build their Islamic Centre further from 'Ground Zero', the spot where the 'twin towers' used to be before terrorists flew planes into them and destroyed them. His tactic could be described as bullying or blackmail. He seems to feel very threatened by the plan to build this Islamic Study Centre and is doing everything in his power to stop it. However, we have already seen how this attempt to force others to do things your way can escalate into more and more violence as there have been already been riots in Afghanistan and people chanting 'death to America' and this sort of thing can spread like wildfire thanks to modern communications systems. Trying to coerce others is not a way to promote peace.
So perhaps 11th September is a good day to do something to make this world a bit more peaceful, or even to begin to work for peace more long-term.
Should we buy a Koran (Quran) today to show Muslims worldwide that many Westerner 'infidel' do have respect for it? Would it be better still if we started to read it, or read about it and Islam to find out what Muslims believe? We would do well to remember that Islam, like Christianity has more than one expression and this can depend on the social culture prevalent in the different countries where Muslims are living.
If you know anyone who is a Muslim find out what they believe, but gently. Don't give them the third degree. Be prepared to listen to them explain what they believe and why, even if you don't agree. Perhaps, when you understand their reasons you can help them to see things from a different perspective.
If you are a Muslim, try to find out more about Christianity.
If we want to foster peace in the world it is important to show respect for what other people hold dear, even if it is something you strongly disapprove of. With gentle questioning you may discover why they think something is right and necessary even though you believe it to be very wrong. This may give you new insights that help you see the matter differently.
Remember that religious faith along with non-religious spirituality, is closely tied up with a person's identity and view of the world, if you try to undermine that they will feel under attack in some way. If you were to destroy someone's faith you will destroy the foundation of their life and that could have dire consequences for them and others.
Whoever you speak to, remember they won't represent everyone from within that religion.
While all the world's major religions advocate peace, people's perception is increasingly that religion is a cause of violence. Greater understanding decreases suspicion and increases friendship.
I believe I have a copy of 'Islam, a very short introduction' somewhere, so I shall track it down and start reading it this weekend, what will you do?