From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Terrorism is topic of UN Office seminar

Date 5 Jun 2002 14:13:57 -0400

Note #7187 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:


Terrorism is topic of UN Office seminar

Participants view Ground Zero from a Christian perspective

by Evan Silverstein

NEW YORK CITY - Forty-five Presbyterians from around the world gathered here recently for a four-day seminar on global terrorism.  

The May 2-5 event, Tackling Terrorism: Faith Talks in the Aftermath of September 11th, sponsored by the Presbyterian United Nations Office, gave participants an opportunity to visit Ground Zero in Manhattan and to explore terrorism and its causes from a Christian perspective.

Presbyterian ministers and lay people heard from non-governmental leaders, including officials from Human Rights Watch and the United Nations Association for the USA, and made a pilgrimage to the site where suicidal terrorists slammed hijacked airliners into the towers of the World Trade Center last September.  

"Much has been said over the last six months concerning terrorism, security, war and justice," said Leslie Bethell, seminar program planner for the UN office, "but too few of these discussions have taken place within the framework of Christian love and peacemaking.

"It is our hope that by educating Presbyterian(s) ... about these issues in the context of Christian ethics, we will all be able to gain a better understanding of the world around us and what our response, as peacemakers, should be."

Participants also met with a representative of Peaceful Tomorrows, an advocacy group founded by family members of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to seek effective non-violent responses to terrorism.

One member of that group, the Rev. Myrna Bethke, a United Methodist pastor from Freehold, NJ, shared her vision of a non-violent future and called for solidarity among victims of terrorism worldwide.

"For me, it's how do we address the systemic causes of violence and terror and look for alternative ways to seek solutions to our differences?" said Bethke, whose brother, Bill Bethke, was killed in one of the Trade Center towers. "Rather than just kind of the knee-jerk violent reaction." 

After visiting Ground Zero, the group hung a chain of paper "peace cranes" on a wrought-iron fence around St. Paul's Chapel, one block from the site. The fence has become a shrine festooned with visitors' signs, flags, T-shirts, candles, flowers and other mementos.

In addition to the briefings on terrorism and international cooperation in fighting it, participants attended workshops led by General Assembly Council (GAC) staff members and other church leaders on topics such as How to Make a Difference in the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict and Dealing with Tough Topics (like September 11th) in the Family.  

"One of the most exciting parts of our work is helping seminar participants explore ways in which they can take what they have learned back to their congregations and communities," Bethell said.

The next Presbyterian UN Office seminar will focus on the global AIDS pandemic. The program, co-sponsored by the AIDS Task Team from the Worldwide Ministries Division, is scheduled for Oct. 24. For details, contact the Presbyterian UN Office by mail at 777 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017, by phone at (212) 697-4568, or by email at; or visit its Web site at
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