Pax Christi Metro New York honored September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows at its 19th Annual Peacemaker Awards Benefit Dinner at the Church of St Francis Xavier in Manhattan, May 18, 2002. Here is Pax Christi’s statement.
One might expect immediate family members of those killed in the September 11th terrorist attacks to be the most vociferous in calling for revenge. But the group “September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows” realizes that solutions to terrorism, indeed to all violence, will not be found in retaliatory violence. Their mission is “to seek effective nonviolent responses to terrorism”, and to identify with people affected by violence throughout the world. They want the war in Afghanistan to stop, and they refuse to be an excuse for killing, in Afghanistan or elsewhere. The group calls for diplomatic means and restorative justice in response to the attacks. Peaceful Tomorrows calls on the US government to create a compensation fund for families of the Afghan bombing victims, and advocates for the International Criminal Court as the means for dealing with perpetrators of terrorism. They have also spoken boldly against the stifling of dissent regarding the war.
Currently September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows has about 25 member families. They have written letters and made public statements calling for an end to the war on Afghanistan, and engaged in various public witnesses to make known their call for a nonviolent response to the tragedy of September 11th (such as walking from Washington DC to New York, and being part of the peace march on Washington in April). Assisted by the non-governmental organization Global Exchange, members of the group visited Afghanistan and met with families there whose loved ones have been killed by the bombings.
I was glad to attend their press conference in February, announcing the launching of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. They spoke lovingly of their family members who had been killed, and I was overwhelmed by the extent of their compassionate ability to identify with others in their suffering, with the Afghan families whose loved ones were, and still are, being killed, while they themselves suffered the loss of their loved ones. I was impressed by their energy, their dedication to the work of the group, and their determination to make their voices heard widely. I was glad to see their good humour, with their sending a Valentine to the president with their message, and with Colleen Kelly’s belief that “if President Bush were more like [her] mother, the world would be a better place.” I was glad also to see the good friendships and community forming among the members of the group. Most of all, I was inspired by their radical choice and their courage: their courage in addressing the current political situation in the midst of their own personal tragedy, their courage in voicing unpopular opinions in a time of war , and their courage in opening themselves up to criticism from the public at large, and especially other people whose loved ones had also been killed on September 11th. They continue their courageous and compassionate activism.
Pax Christi website: http://paxchristiusa.org/