How to Forgive Religion: Reflecting on 9/11

Today marks the 16 year anniversary of one of the most horrific events in the United States. On September 11, 2001 a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 others in the Twin Towers in New York City, New York.

After September 11, 2001, many blamed Islam in general for the devastating tragedy caused by the few Islamic radicals.  People grew afraid of religion and currently still are as people continue to commit violence in the name of their religion.  This is not a new problem.  The religious wars that waged in Europe lasted over 100 years (mid-1500’s to mid-1600’s) and pitted Catholics against Protestants.  Fast forward to the 21st century, not much has changed. Jews and Palestine Muslims are fighting for land that is twenty-five miles long and about seven miles wide.  Muslim Extremists commit terrorist attacks in the name of Allah all over the world. This has caused so much pain and fear in many peoples’ lives, but there are ways to forgive religion and we should try to as religion exists to give us hope and comfort.  It will only help us grow, learn, and feel at peace once we forgive religion.

Is forgiveness the same for all religions?

Well, maybe not exactly the same, but all major religions sing a common song. It is better for you to let it go.  God is big on forgiveness; human-to-human forgiveness, and the spiritual type.  Forgiveness is one of the common threads in all religions.  Let’s call it the golden thread that ties all the major religions together.  Forgiveness rescues us from being flawed human beings, no matter how you worship.

Christianity

Forgiveness is central to Christianity.  Jesus hung on a cross and died to bring forgiveness for the sins of all man.  Jesus’ message was for everyone, pious to poor because we are all sinners. Forgiveness is mentioned thirty-two times in the New Testament and seventy-four times in the Bible overall.

Judaism

In Judaism, forgiveness is taken seriously enough to give it a holiday. The ten days between Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) are called the ten days of repentance.  This is a special time every year to focus on making things right people you have offended.  The day of Yom Kippur is for people in the Jewish faith to pray and fast as they seek God’s forgiveness for sins against God.

Hinduism

When practicing Hinduism in India, there is not a word for forgiveness, because forgiveness is expected.  In the United States, however, our culture teaches forgiveness so Hindu teachers are now introducing teachings on forgiveness.  

Forgiveness is listed as a Divine characteristic in the Bhagavad Gita.  Krishna (an Indian divinity that is the 8th incarnation of the Hindu God, Vishnu) refers to Kripa, grace, forgiveness, and mercy in the final chapter of the Bhagavad Gita.

Islam

Islam is similar to Christianity and Judaism regarding forgiveness.  Allah (God) is merciful and forgiving, understanding that human beings are not perfect.

There are two types of forgiveness in Islam; Allah’s and human.  Allah forgives and forgets when his servants ask for forgiveness honestly.  You do not need the offender to apologize or ask for forgiveness.  Forgiveness is about you and for you.    If you want to be forgiven you must forgive others, especially if you seek forgiveness from God.  When you seek forgiveness, you humble yourself.  When you give forgiveness, you show your true generosity.  Choosing forgiveness brings happiness by improving our earthly relationships and the reward of Allah’s forgiveness for our own human lacking.

Modern Spirituality

Forgiveness carries over to this New Age tradition as well.  Forgiveness is said to alleviate your energetic (and physical body) of pent-up resentment and suffering.  It usually involved meditations and prayers.  In the meditations and prayers, you send love and light to the person or situation to be forgiven.  There is also the idea that the biggest part of our forgiveness usually lies in forgiving ourselves.  Forgiving the judgment we put on ourselves for our own mistakes and misdeeds.

So clearly, forgiveness is a part of every major religion. In order to forgive, you need to have faith; faith that you will have a brighter tomorrow.  Faith that your tomorrow will be without the anger and pain you feel today.  

You need to believe in your strength to forgive the situation, the person, or even yourself.  As we reflect upon 9/11 today, we need to call upon our strength to forgive Islam.  I’m not saying we have to forgive those who committed such terrible violence on this day sixteen years ago but to forgive those who practice Islam now.  As you have just read, all major religions sing the common song of forgiveness; Islam, too.  Once you forgive Islam, your faith will help you move past the pain and it will give you hope for the future. For, Islam, as a religion, did not cause the devastation on September 11, 2001.  Those who used Islam as their excuse to commit a terrorist attack in the name of Allah were wrong in doing so.  They were at fault, not Islam.  I hope you can remember this and forgive religion.  It will be a process but call upon your strength and faith and you will be able to forgive.

What do you think? How are you able to forgive after tragedy?