Last summer, New York was embroiled in a controversy over the development of a Muslim Community Center in lower Manhattan that quickly escalated into a vitriolic debate that exposed deep feelings of unresolved grief from attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001 and about the place of American Muslims within the fabric of our society. It became evident that there was a conversation that we thought we had—but didn’t—after the tragic events of September 11, 2001.
It also became apparent to many of us that the voice of the religious community was surprisingly muted, and concern emerged as we looked forward to the tenth anniversary of this watershed moment in American history.
Not content to “wait and see” what will happen, leaders of six multifaith organizations—Auburn Seminary, Odyssey Networks, the Interfaith Center of New York, Quest, the Tanenbaum Center and Intersections—began meeting together on August 2010 to respond proactively to the opportunity that this anniversary could mean in the long-term healing of our city and beyond.
The result: a coalition called Prepare New York. I encourage you to go to the web site, www.prepareny.com, just recently launched, but already becoming an active place to learn about initiatives underway to have that elusive conversation we never had, and to shift the narrative away from fear and ignorance and towards mutual respect and understanding across lines of faith and culture.
I urge you to sign on as a member. Why? To borrow from Woody Allen, “half of winning is just showing up.” If the world sees a large and growing number willing to put their names on the line for religious pluralism and cross-cultural tolerance, the conversation changes. By becoming a member you can be among the first to learn about events that are now being planned. And, you can tell your own story about why religious tolerance is important, join one of the 500 facilitated dialogues that will take place across the city, participate in events scheduled for the September 11 weekend, make a donation and watch this “movement” grow.
It has been deeply moving to see partners join together in this effort and to watch it spring into being. We are on the cusp of going public in much wider ways and I invite you to join us—sign up, tell a friend, write a blog, make a donation and, most importantly, participate in an effort that changes the narrative from suspicion of the “other” to a celebration of the vibrant mosaic that is the City of New York.