A Letter to Pastors Regarding Tuesday's Attack from Henry Schmidt

FRESNO, CA - On this day of national mourning and prayer, we, your colleagues in ministry pray for you as you minister to your congregation Sunday, especially that you will bring the reassurance of God's comfort. We pray for you as pastor. "The Lord is my light and my salvation -- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life -- of whom shall I be afraid? . . . when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall." (Ps 27:1, 26 NIV).

1. We stand with you and your congregations in calling all God's people to intercessory prayer,
- for the families, friends and co-workers of victims,
- for our national leaders, but also
- for all those associated with the terrorist attacks.
In dying for all of us Christ showed his love for all alike. Therefore Paul urges "that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high position, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1Tim. 2:1-3).

2. We pray with you and your congregation for peace as well as for justice. Strident voices in harsh language are calling for "an enraged America." But violence begets violence. Escalation of violence leads to further injustice. Racism blinds the eyes of even the righteous. Pray for restraint. Pray that the church's voice for peace will not be muted in these days of strong emotions and desire for revenge. Though like the Psalmist (cf. Psalm 109) we will not be spared feelings of anger, let these come to expression in the recognition, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord" (cf. Rom 12:17-19). "When peacemakers sow seeds of peace, they will harvest justice" (James 3:18 CEV) "May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace." (Ps. 29:11 NRSV).

3. We pray with you that our nation would repent. Officials are pointing the blaming finger at various outsiders. Few seem to look inward or to the larger flow of God's providence and guidance. Joseph recognized God's hand in his brother's acts against him (Gen. 45:7,8). Daniel discerned God's activity in Babylon's attack and sack of Jerusalem (Dan. 1:1,2). As we interpret the events of the last week, the Scriptures remind us that calamity may be a way to urge us to remember our own actions--Hiroshima, the 500,000 dead strewn across the sands of Iraq, our insatiable need for oil, corporate oppression in Third World countries. Our hands are not clean. Pray that we may see our role in creating the political and social conditions that drive people to such destructive acts of violence.

"Even now," declares the Lord, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love and he relents from sending calamity" (Joel 2:13 NIV).

4. Pray for positive steps forward in the spirit of Craig Hallman's letter published this morning in the Fresno BEE under the caption `Endless Cycle.' Hallman, our graduate, now with MBMSI writes from Karachi, Pakistan, "I strongly discourage the United States or NATO from making a counterattack on Afghanistan or Osama bin Laden. This will perpetuate an endless cycle of retribution; Israel being the prime example of this death trap. The more people killed by the U.S. guarantees more radicals and future attacks - a reality we must consider in our national debate about how to respond to Tuesday's terrorism.

"The hijackers have unwittingly created a sympathetic climate for partnership with moderate Islamic states to defuse radicalism. Diplomacy, trust and friendship - not militancy - is our only hope for stopping future attacks."

Just yesterday Elmer Martens, President Emeritus at MBBS, received a call from his Muslim neighbor sending her condolences to his family and for America. The stunning carnage in New York has made many more Muslims sympathize with America and doubt the radicals. This goodwill will immediately evaporate when the first bomb drops.

Posted: September 14, 2001