Clergy offer Christian explanation

Posted: Sunday, September 16, 2001

Following Tuesday's horror, came Friday's call to prayer.

"I ask that the people of the United States and places of worship mark this National Day of Prayer and Remembrance ... I invite the people of the world who share our grief to join us in these solemn observances," Bush said.

Bush denounced evildoers, called for justice, swore to pursue those responsible for terrorist attacks and promised that, "In time, we will find healing and recovery; and, in the face of all this evil, we remain strong and united, 'one Nation under God.'"

Kenai Peninsula religious representatives took time Saturday to offer thoughts on Tuesday's events and the response for which it calls.

"This is not God dealing a judgment," said Rufus Tallent, pastor of Aurora Heights Assembly of God in Nikiski. "But I do see God lifting his hand in protection ... When, I believe, a nation begins to move away from its beliefs and understanding of God as a whole, the Scripture says you'll reap what you sow. I don't blame God. He doesn't go out and kill people, but he will lift his hand in protection."

Tallent used Nepal, India and some African nations as examples.

"Because of whom they worship, they end up suffering the consequences of that," he said.

Tallent and his family had powerful lessons in terrorism while serving as missionaries in Columbia from 1987 until 1991. They experienced bombings and the imposition of numerous safeguards.

"It's been going on in other areas of the world for a long time," he said.

"Some people think it can never happen here, but I don't know why they think that."

Terrorism creates fear, according to Tallent. But fear, he said, "belongs in the hands of God," and prayer is the key.

"A response by this nation, government-wise, is that the perpetrators and those who assisted them over the years and also in the last few days of their operations need to be dealt with, as well," he said. "But even then, we need to make sure that we are taking the proper course of action. That brings us back to prayer."

Renee Duncan, pastor of My Inheritance Ministries and assistant pastor of the Soldotna First Assembly of God, doesn't believe America is cursed or being punished. Instead, she said, it was a matter of choices and circumstances.

"Whenever a people that has chosen to follow God start to pull back and chase after things totally opposing what (God) stands for, his blessings are not as strong," she said.

"I believe that the choices we've made in terms of lifestyle, choosing to allow babies in the womb to be less than what they are, allowing pornography to run rampant, drugs, these choices tear down our country."

In terms of the individuals behind Tuesday's attack, Duncan said justice needs to be carefully dealt.

"There's a difference between retaliation and justice," she said. "We don't want to react the same way they did. We need to show them love, but in that love is a justice that they need to face the choices they made and the results of those choices."

Duncan believes there is still good in the world.

"That's what we need to focus on," she said.

Mark Burn, pastor of the United Methodist Church in Ninilchik, said anger was evident at the church's Friday evening prayer vigil.

"But that's OK," he said. "I would say that will pass eventually, but that's the immediate response."

Burns does not view Tuesday's events as God's punishment on the United States.

"I think that whoever did this would like us to think that," he said. "But the sad reality is that there's evil in the world, and sometimes it gets inflicted on us."

Stephen Toliver, pastor at the Kalifonsky Christian Center, said the hijackings were acts of terrorism and not a judgment on America. He recognized the need to express anger over the attacks and urged that it be appropriately directed toward the perpetrators.

"But not toward any group of people as a whole," he said. "Racism is not something we can have in this country."

He said he is encouraged by the unity he has seen across the United States.

"People, as a whole, are praying, interceding for a nation, reaching out in love," he said. "Most people that I have contact with are responding very well."

Archpriest Marcarius Targonsky, of the Russian Orthodox Church, said God is testing -- not judging -- America. The correct answer to the test: love.

"I can't say it's prayer, because some Americans are atheists," he said. "But Americans can love one another."

Targonsky's wife, Yvette, was born in Jerusalem and is of Arab descent. She became a United States citizen shortly after they were married 47 years ago.

"She really feels sad, because her fellow countrymen have been persecuted ever since the nation of Israel was created by the United Nations," he said.

"Her parents lost their property in Jerusalem. Palestine doesn't have their country now, so she feels a sorrow.

"But there are extremists on both sides, and it seems like the extremists are more or less influencing the majority.

"Both nations want their own place to live and want to live in peace, but it's very difficult. She knows suffering."

Byron McCord, a member of the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bah's of Ridgeway, commented that the response of the Bah' faith is best summarized in its writings:

"There is nothing so heart-breaking and terrible as an outburst of human savagery! I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace ... When soldiers of the world draw their swords to kill, soldiers of God clasp each other's hands! So may all the savagery of man disappear by the Mercy of God, working through the pure in heart and the sincere of soul. Do not think the peace of the world an ideal impossible to attain!"

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