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The Survivor Tree: A story of resilience from 9/11

survivortree_bloomingin2010_911memorialdotorg

The Survivor Tree, 2010 | 911Memorial.org

The tree’s branches were severed but a few green leaves remained, each leaf a sign of life against the blackened sky. On that day, we grieved as New Yorkers, and global citizens, for the innocent lives lost and the knowledge that in many ways, life would never be the same.

The Survivor Tree, November 2001 | 911Memorial.org/

The Survivor Tree, November 2001 | 911Memorial.org

The tree was carefully removed from the World Trade Center site and it began to recover, sprouting new branches and flourishing in the sun. Replanted at the 9/11 Memorial, in the spring, it’s white flowers spread across the sky, honoring the victims and reminding us of our strength when we stand together.

Together, we are a strong, resilient nation, just like The Survivor Tree.

By Nicole Margaretten


To view a slideshow of the Survivor Tree’s transformation, please visit the 911 Memorial’s gallery.

 

Reflections on the People’s Pope by Tanenbaum CEO Joyce S. Dubensky

Dear Friends,

Joyce Dubensky with friends at the 9/11 Memorial

Joyce Dubensky with friends at the 9/11 Memorial

I was among the privileged to be at the 9/11 memorial site in New York City when Pope Francis made his way to the stage to give blessings and speak. People from different faiths and practices  gathered to share prayers for peace; it was an interfaith ceremony held in a place where so many are remembered and so much was lost.

I took away from the crowded room, filled with diverse holy people, some things the Pope said – or that I interpreted from his words.  They are meaningful for me, as a Jewish woman. And perhaps for you, as well.

Pope Francis remembered those who suffered on 9/11 at the hands of individuals who somehow believed inflicting harm was their duty. He linked the lives that we lost, and the pain of those who forever remember them, to people who suffer today amid violence and war – because others continue to impose undue harm.

He spoke of mourning and how peace is not just an abstraction. As I listened, I thought of the child crying, hungry and frightened in war-torn conflicts. I must hear her cries, as if she were my own.

The People’s Pope urged us to seek pathways to peace amid our differences. A peace that stops the fighting but, also, the poverty, destruction and hopelessness.

The People’s Pope sees all people. And he reminds us to join with him.

Join us by reading and sharing our Shared Visions, a project that reminds us how the world’s religions share many core values.

With great gratitude,

Joyce S. Dubensky
CEO

Hurricane damaged Houses of Worship denied grant from FEMA: News Round Up

In the news this week: Houses of worship seeking FEMA grants face constitutional barrier, first Hindu American Congresswoman takes oath on Bhagavad Gita, and other stories.

Hurricane Sandy flooded and battered St. George Malankara Orthodox Church of India  in New Dorp, Staten Island, ruining its basement, windows and doors. Yet, when its vicar contacted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ask for a grant to help with the estimated $150,000 rebuilding cost, he said he got a clear answer: No. 

A broad range of private nonprofit organizations qualify for federal disaster assistance grants, including zoos, museums, performing arts centers and libraries. Houses of worship, however, are not on the list, even though in recent years the federal government has ruled that some religiously affiliated institutions like schools and hospitals can get grants. The New York Times

Tulsi Gabbard from Hawaii has created history by not only becoming the first Hindu ever to be sworn in as a member of the US House of Representatives, but also being the first ever US lawmaker to have taken oath of office on the sacred Bhagavad Gita. Tulsi, 31, was administered the oath of office by John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

"I chose to take the oath of office with my personal copy of the Bhagavad Gita because its teachings have inspired me to strive to be a servant-leader, dedicating my life in the service of others and to my country," Gabbard said after the swearing in ceremony yesterday. The Indian Express

At a time when the ideals of compromise and collegiality seem like a distant dream in the nation’s capital, an unusually diverse coalition of religious leaders is asking Americans to pray for civility.

“Through daily prayer, we are calling on the ‘better angels of our nature’ needed to sustain our nation and solve problems,” said the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, immediate past president of the National Council of Churches and one of the faith leaders taking part in “18 days of Prayer for the Nation.”

Prayers begin Thursday (Jan. 3), the first day of the new Congress, and end on Jan. 21, the day of President Obama’s second inauguration. Religion News Service

The Pakistani schoolgirl activist, Malala Yousafzai, 15, who was shot in the head by the Taliban has been discharged from a Birmingham hospital as an inpatient.

She was being treated at Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEHB) after being transferred following the attack in October. Yousafzai will continue rehabilitation at her family's temporary West Midlands home.

The Taliban said it shot Malala, a campaigner for girls' education, for "promoting secularism". The shooting, in a school bus, sparked domestic and international outrage. BBC News

Number of those without religious affiliation growing: News Roundup

In the news this week: a study finds 1 in 6 people worldwide have no religious affiliation, HumanLight, a secular holiday, gains traction, and other news stories.

A global study of religious adherence released on Tuesday by the Pew Research Center found that about one of every six people worldwide has no religious affiliation. This makes the “unaffiliated,” as the study calls them, the third-largest group worldwide, with 16 percent of the global population — about equal to Catholics.

The study also found a wide disparity in the median age of religious populations, with Muslims and Hindus the youngest, and Buddhists and Jews the oldest. The median age of the youngest group, Muslims, was 23, while the median for Jews was 36.

Over all, Christians (including Catholics) are the largest religious group, with 2.2 billion people, about 32 percent of the world’s population. They are followed by Muslims, with 1.6 billion, about 23 percent. There are about one billion Hindus, about 15 percent of the global population, and nearly half a billion Buddhists, about 7 percent.  New York Times

Former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee continued to speak out on Monday about the recent school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., days after making controversial statements suggesting the massacre was somehow tied to the lack of religious expression in public school.

Following the shooting on Friday, Huckabee asked why we should "be so surprised" at the violence when "we have systematically removed God from our schools."

Speaking on Fox News on Monday, Huckabee clarified that he didn't believe an increased religious presence at Sandy Hook could actually have directly prevented that particular shooting from taking place.  Huffington Post

Religious leaders across the country this week vowed to mobilize their congregants to push for gun control legislation and provide the ground support for politicians willing to take on the gun lobby, saying the time has come for action beyond praying and comforting the families of those killed.

A group of clergy members, representing mainline and evangelical Protestants, Catholics, Jews and Muslims, plans to lead off the campaign in front of the Washington National Cathedral at an event on Friday timed to mark the moment a week before when a young gunman opened fire in a school in Newtown, Conn.  New York Times

In addition to Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, secular humanists have added a new celebration to the crowded calendar. HumanLight, observed on or about Dec. 23, is a secular celebration of human potential that is growing in acceptance.

This year, at least 18 groups, from New Jersey to Florida and Pennsylvania to Colorado, have ceremonies planned. And at least one government building that displays holiday scenes has added HumanLight to the roster: the county courthouse in Wabash, Ind., displays a yellow, white and red HumanLight banner on the same lawn as the Christian creche.

“The key to understanding HumanLight is to understand it is a holiday that is humanity-based,” said Patrick Colucci, vice-chair of The HumanLight Committee, a volunteer group which helps promote awareness of the holiday.  Religion News Service

And, the last news story we feature for 2012 is…

From nuns to ‘nones,’ 10 ways religion shaped the news in 2012    Religion News Service

Violent, Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes in Brooklyn: News Roundup

In the news this week: Anti-Semitic hate crime in Brooklyn, the effect of Alabama’s immigration law on students, the (possibly secular) origins of Thanksgiving, and other stories.

Peaceful marchers sent a clear message Sunday to vandals who torched cars and scrawled Nazi swastikas in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Brooklyn where Woody Allen was raised: Don't repeat the kind of attacks that once led to the Holocaust. CBS News
 
Of the 6,628 hate crime incidents reported for 2010, nearly all (6,624) involved a single bias—47.3 percent of the single-bias incidents were motivated by race; 20 percent by religion; 19.3 by sexual orientation; 12.8 percent by an ethnicity/national origin bias; and 0.6 by physical or mental disability. FBI
 
An increasing number of state lawmakers say they are willing to consider critical changes to Alabama’s sweeping anti-immigration law, part of which appears to make proof of citizenship or legal residency a requirement even for mundane activities like garbage pickup, dog licenses and flu shots at county health departments.
 
As they learn more about the breadth of the law, which was already described as the most far-reaching of the state-level immigration laws when it went into effect on Sept. 29, some political leaders have gone beyond acknowledging a general need for “tweaks” to openly discussing specific changes, which in some cases are as substantial as getting rid of certain provisions in their entirety. NY Times
 
Alabama’s new immigration law is already profoundly affecting educational institutions, administrators, teachers, and students in the state. Under Section 28 of the law, every public elementary and secondary school in the state is required to document and report the immigration status of every student in the school. Schools are also required to report on the immigration status of every child’s parents. Center for American Progress
 
TENNESSEE – Local and national Muslims called for state officials Saturday to rebuke state Rep. Rick Womick for remarks he made that all Muslims be removed from the U.S. military. Tennessean
 
Gay and Muslim groups say they are relieved after a Michigan lawmaker agreed to drop a provision in an anti-bullying bill that would have carved out an exemption for religious or moral beliefs.
 
State Sen. Rick Jones, a Republican, inserted a carve-out for a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” in the Senate version of the bill. The state House of Representatives’ version of the bill did not include the provision.
 
Jones on Monday (Nov. 14) said he would drop his amendment and vote for the House version after critics said the language could allow gay, Muslim or other minority students to face harassment. Washington Post
 
Some historians believe the 1621 celebration that's sometimes dubbed the "First Thanksgiving," was not actually a "thanksgiving" day at all. In fact, some historians even call it a "secular event."
 
"The 1621 gathering in Plymouth was not a religious gathering but most likely a harvest celebration much like those the English had known in farming communities back home," write Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac in their book, 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving. USA Today