September 11, 2002. The Schola Cantorum Cantate Domino boys’ and men’s choir (from Sint-Maarteninstituut, Aalst, Belgium) and its conductor Rev. Michaël Ghijs participate in an event called The Rolling Requiem, a worldwide choral commemoration of all those lost and all those who helped others on September 11th, 2001. The event means that Mozart’s Requiem is performed throughout the world, in every time zone, beginning one year after the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York. Since then, The Rolling Requiem has become an institution on its own, supporting the victims of catastrophes throughout the world.
Yesterday, September 11, 2011, Cantate Domino once again performed Mozart’s Requiem, commemorating the victims of 9/11 ten years later. This time the commemoration was organized by U.S. Ambassador Howard Gutman, and took the shape of a Celebration for Peace. Once again the event was held in the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula, in Brussels. New conductor David De Geest asked me if I would want to join ‘the troops’ one more time, and I was grateful to be able to accept the invitation. So, yesterday I found myself among the other choristers, singing one of the most beautiful and moving Requiems ever written, on an equally moving occasion…
The music was alternated with reflections and prayers by representatives of the different Abrahamic religions. Here are some excerpts from their meditations:
Jew: A 2nd century quote in Hebrew learns: “The whole Torah exists only for the sake of peace”. The echoes of this basic truth resound throughout the three millennia-long Jewish tradition. Thus, Nahmanides, one of the Spanish-Jewish sages of the 13th century writes: “The sword is diametrical opposite to our Hebrew bible, it is in fact the ultimate antithesis of our Hebrew text”.
Maintaining peace is for Judaism an absolute must. In fact, in Hebrew thinking, man is to transcend the easily spoken word, to pass from the project stage to concretization, from parabolic utopia to concrete action. According to Haim Nahman from Braslaw (1772-1810), one of the wise men of hasidism, “Educating our youth has only one goal, i.e. to develop in the individual the qualities and habits necessary to channel aggressive tendencies. This is supported by teaching the duties toward our fellow creatures”. These duties are presented in the concise and energetic form of a maxim which we must apply as a reference point amidst the labyrinth of hazards in our lives: “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18). That is the founding principle, the summary of our duty toward humanity. That is the genesis of this universal peace that we have been awaiting for too long a time.
(Prof. Dr. J. Klener, President of the Central Jewish Consistoire of Belgium).
Western Christian: Peace is an irrepressible yearning present in the heart of each person, regardless of his or her particular cultural identity. Consequently, everyone should feel committed to service of this great good, and should strive to prevent any form of untruth from poisoning relationships. All people are members of one and the same family. An extreme exaltation of differences clashes with this fundamental truth. We need to regain an awareness that we share a common destiny which is ultimately transcendent, so as to maximize our historical and cultural differences, not in opposition to, but in cooperation with, people belonging to other cultures. These simple truths are what make peace possible; they are easily understood whenever we listen to our own hearts with pure intentions. Peace thus comes to be seen in a new light: not as the mere absence of war, but as a harmonious coexistence of individual citizens within a society governed by justice, one in which the good is also achieved, to the extent possible, for each of them. The truth of peace calls upon everyone to cultivate productive and sincere relationships; it encourages them to seek out and to follow the paths of forgiveness and reconciliation, to be transparent in their dealings with others, and to be faithful to their word. – Pope Benedict XVI, Message for the world day of peace, 1.1.2006
(Quoted by Canon Herman Cosijns, Secretary of the Belgian Bishops’ Conference).
Eastern Christian: In his letter dated May 22, 2011, His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew talked about peace as follows:
“During the celebration of the Holy Liturgy, we ask the Lord three things: ‘peace’, ‘peace from above’ and ‘peace for the whole world’. We aspire with our whole being that the world reflects the Lord’s Kingdom and that God’s love reigns ‘on earth as well as in Heaven’.
As faithful disciples of the Lord of peace, we have to constantly look for and continuously recommend ways of acting which rebuff violence and war. Of course, human conflicts may turn out to be inevitable in our world but this is not the case for war or violence.
Justice and peace are key topics in the Scriptures. However, the Orthodox Christians should not refrain from the great tradition of the Philokalia which emphasizes that ultimately peace always begins in the hearts. Saint Isaac the Syrian wrote in the seventh century: ‘If you make peace with yourself, heaven and earth will make peace with you’.
Peace… is a way of life which reflects human participation in God’s love for the world.”
(Quoted by Father Psallas Evangelos, Representative of the Orthodox Church in Belgium).
Muslim: We cannot emphasize enough the sacred aspect of human life. In the Holy Qur’an, God says: “Whosoever killeth a human being, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.” [Surah 5;32]
That is the message of Islam which is also spread by other religions.
All attempts and movements to associate Islam and Muslims with “terrorism” are unacceptable.
This is why we have to unite so that these kinds of actions never happen again. Every community has the responsibility to build a just and peaceful society by bringing together the different philosophical views that are inherent to our society.
If we want to give our children a peaceful future, we will all have to make efforts to promote dialogue, respect and tolerance within our own homes, our religious community and society at large.
The actions of a small minority should not have any impact on the efforts of men and women who are working to build a society that respects differences.
I am convinced that, despite the tensions of the last few years around the world, we have not come to a point of no return. The crisis we are currently experiencing should make us conscious of the fact that living together is a challenge that each of us must embrace.
I ask for the help of God to guide us on the right path, to protect us from the dark forces of all kinds of ignorance and to give us the strength and courage for a peaceful world and to live in peace.
(Reflection by Mr. Semsettin Ugurlu, President of the Muslim Executive of Belgium).