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Out of the Shadows of 9/11

Auburn Seminary, Millennials, Moral Vision, and Movement-Building

by Valarie Kaur

“We need to have an ‘American spring’… nonviolent change where people from the grassroots get involved again.”  – Former Vice President Al Gore, August 2011

We’re hungry for a movement. Faith and moral communities around the globe are tired of politics that maintain the status quo. Here in the U.S., a rising generation is finding brave new ways to channel moral vision into action: we’re marching in the streets for immigration reform, holding the banner of marriage equality, pushing back on anti-Muslim rhetoric, and demanding an end to partisan politics.

But we’re not being heard. A small segment of the American population still holds the monopoly over ‘morality’ on the airwaves and in the halls of power.  As we near the end of the 9/11 decade, these voices continue to dominate public discourse and proclaim the language of faith for restrictive political agendas, stripping the dignity of immigrants, denigrating LGBT people, and fueling anti-Muslim ideologies.

The moment is ripe for people from across faith and moral communities to take action.  This ten-year anniversary of 9/11, our congregations and communities are holding vigils, walks, hearings, screenings, and community service projects that stand for compassion, renewal, and religious diversity in all 50 states.  What would happen if we connected the dots and saw ourselves as part of one movement?  What would happen if we announced ourselves as part of a groundswell of people across faiths and beliefs committed to heal and repair the world?

We could form the beginning of a new multifaith movement for justice.

I’m part of a multifaith coalition, based out of Auburn Seminary in New York City but extending across the country, working to inspire a groundswell of community this ten-year anniversary of 9/11.  We’re chronicling, connecting, and resourcing events across the U.S. that bring people together in healing and hope.  We’re inviting people to sponsor Ribbons of Hope to New York City, which we will weave into a diverse tapestry that represents the groundswell.  And we are mobilizing a multifaith network to surge into national and local media to eclipse anti-Muslim rhetoric and ideologies – now and through the 2012 election.

We believe that the end of the 9/11 decade marks the rise of a new generation ready for meaningful change. The Millennial generation, young people born roughly in the 1980s and 1990s, belong to the most open and diverse generation the country has seen. We form real and virtual communities that transcend old divides: right and left, black and white, religious and secular At the same time, we have come of age in the shadow of major crises: the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the threat of climate change, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a punishing economic recession. Many of us mobilized to elect President Barack Obama but widespread disillusionment with the political process has since set in.  We want a movement that’s not about a political identity, particular tradition, but a shared moral vision for a better world.

We don’t need to wait for this moral center to emerge.  Thousands of faith and moral communities across the U.S. are already working from a sense of moral calling that has nothing to do with politics – alleviating poverty, protecting immigrants, and facilitating multifaith cooperation this 9/11 anniversary for example.  They’re just working alone.  The light of social justice flickers in brave corners but fizzles in isolation.  To achieve meaningful change in a networked society, we must shine that light in a bold constellation.

With the rise of a new generation, innovations in online organizing, and widespread hunger to respond to social challenges as interconnected, we can build a movement of faith and moral communities networked for change in the run-up to the 2012 election.  Together, we offer a brand new voice in the political system – faith and moral communities willing to transcend old divides, organize around shared moral imperatives, and take action on urgent social causes.  America needs this voice, now more than ever, to come from outside Washington, rather than from within it.  We just need to proclaim our voice as one, starting now. Join the groundswell.

Valarie Kaurdirector of Groundswell, is an award-winning filmmaker (Divided We Fall, 2008), Harvard-trained theologian, and social justice advocate.  She studies at Yale Law School, where she teaches visual advocacy as director of the Yale Visual Law Project.  Housed at Auburn SeminaryGroundswell is a new multifaith social action network that generates the moral force around urgent social causes.

Want to learn more?  Auburn Seminary will host a special teach-in “Out of the Shadows of 9/11: Millennials, Moral Vision, and the Global Groundswell” with thought leaders, including Valarie Kaur, on September 6th at 7pm in New York City.  Click here to RSVP or to watch live streaming.

Join the groundswell.  Send a Ribbon of Hope to Ground Zero on 9/11/11.