Summary: Today is September 12th here in Sydney, which means that in the USA it is September 11th - around 4.30pm in the afternoon if you live on the West Coast and 7.30pm if you live on the East Coast, and somewhere in between those times if you live somewhere in
And you'll have to excuse me from departing from my normal format of simply focusing on one of our scheduled readings for today, as you'll have to forgive me for focusing on the anniversary of an event that took place nine years ago on the other side of the world and hence, some might suppose, had nothing to do with us then and even less to do with us now. But the truth is that the attack upon the Twin Towers in New York on September 11th 2001, despite the fact that it happened a long way away and quite a long time ago, is an event that continues to play a determining role in the lives (and deaths) of millions of people across the globe, and which certainly has had a direct impact on all of us here.
I'm sure you remember the events of 9/11 (as it's become known) well enough, but let me nonetheless give you a brief summary once again:
On the morning of September 11, 2001, four passenger jets were hijacked, two of which ultimately collided with the enormous sky-scrapers in New York known as the 'Twin Towers'. In the two hours that followed the collision both buildings somehow collapsed completely, as did other buildings, even blocks away. More significantly, nearly 3000 people were killed - most of them being office workers who were trapped in the burning and collapsing buildings, while others were caught up in the mayhem on the streets below.
People perished tragically while fire-fighters fought bravely while so many of us around the world stood aghast, with mouths open, wondering what had happened and wondering what would be the aftermath of this tragic event.
Questions still abound nine years later about what really happened on that day. There continue to be multiple conspiracy theories about possible CIA involvement and explosives that might have been laid in the buildings, and some of these conspiracy theories are not easily dismissed. Indeed, one in three Americans still believe there was Federal involvement in 9/11, including prominent academics, journalists, architects and former intelligence officers.
Even so, putting to one side the conspiracy theories regarding what really happened, what is unambiguous is what did happen in the aftermath of the tragedy. Osama Bin Laden was officially blamed for the attack and seemed to be happy to take full credit for it. Bin Laden was hence declared public enemy no.1 of the entire civilised world and a 'war on terror' was declared.
This 'war on terror' then took us into Afghanistan and into Iraq, even though Bin Laden had no connection at all with Iraq, and this has cost the lives of not thousands but quite possibly millions of human beings, all of whom seem to be paying the price for what happened on 9/11!
It is a remarkable history when one reads it now in hindsight. How was it that the world became so quickly convinced that Sadam Hussein had something to do with the Twin Towers attack? The connection was never explicitly made at an official level of course, but surveys showed clearly that most American at the time believed it to be true nonetheless. And even if we credit that there were other seemingly good reasons brought forward to justify an invasion of Iraq, it is impossible to imagine that such an invasion could have been staged if 9/11had never happened.
And we in Sydney, Australia have been entirely caught up in this! Despite the fact that the Twin Towers attack happened on the other side of the world and that none of us were actually there, we nonetheless took this all very personally, and have hence been involved in the retaliatory strikes against Iraq and Afghanistan, and Australian troops, along with their American allies, continue to die in these countries.
And so we find ourselves trying to extract ourselves from the quagmire of the now-devastated country of Iraq, as we find ourselves wondering what we are now doing in Afghanistan, as we dread the possibility of new hostilities opening up against the nation of Iran (God forbid) - a conflict that we pray will not happen but which we fear, if it did, we would get caught up in too.
And behind this grim picture of global military violence and political manipulation lies what I consider to be a darker reality still - namely, a growing tension that crosses national boundaries - a looming war between two of the world’s greatest religions: Christianity and Islam.
Who would have thought nine years ago that we today in Sydney, Australia, would be living in ever-increasing suspicion of our Muslim neighbours - not only in neighbouring Indonesia but within our own cities and suburbs!
Nine years ago my paranoia was still tied up with the ghosts of Communism! How could I have anticipated that within such a short space of time the fears and prejudices of the entire Western world would have shifted their focus from the red menace to an entirely new enemy - an enemy that had apparently been lying dormant for all this time (or at least since the Crusades) - an enemy that, at the time, I knew almost nothing about!