“Where were you when….?”
Certain dates, we remember; we just can’t forget. The day JFK was assassinated. The day we landed on the moon.
On Sunday, Sept. 11, Durham Habitat commemorated the 15th anniversary of that unforgettable day by holding an Interfaith Habitat Build in Northeast Central Durham (NECD). As we gathered, the group reflected: “Where were you on 9/11?”
“I was giving blood. “
“I was on my way to the airport. Of course, my plans changed.”
“I was sitting in my high school English class. I remember my Army reserve commander called me that afternoon to say: Get Ready.”
“I was at work and remember everybody standing around. Nobody had any idea what to do.”
What do you do? At a time like that?
I tend to think in Durham Habitat-centric terms, so it’ll come as no surprise that I found our Interfaith Build to be just the right thing to do to commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11.
The group gathered included Muslims, Jews, Christians, and some unaffiliated. It included a student group, Duke Voices for Interfaith Action. And it included Dan Allums, a Habitat homeowner and a veteran who was deployed in Iraq.
Many spoke from the heart about their remembrances, and how 9/11 has affected their lives.
Our Muslim friends talked about their convictions that a faithful Muslim would never take another human’s life. Taking one person’s life is the same as killing all of humanity, they told us. Dan, the veteran, talked about how he had fought Muslims, and how after talking and knowing Muslims through Habitat, he has come to realize how much we all have in common.
We talked. We broke bread together. In the process, we learned from each other. We acknowledged we have differences. In fact, we celebrated our differences.
And then we focused on all that we have in common. We talked about the commonalities between our faiths. Love your neighbor. A deep sense that service to others is vitally important to being a good Muslim, Jew, Christian. To being a good person.
That day’s build was on the eve of the Eid, the Muslim Festival of Sacrifice. I wasn’t familiar with the Eid, but as Hadi Ahmed, president of the RTP chapter of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, described it, I recognized the story. It’s the story of Abraham’s call to sacrifice his son. So we talked a bit about the common stories the Bible, the Quran and the Torah all share.
A mentor of mine once told me: ideas divide and projects unite. So true! A day at a Habitat job site affirms my conviction that when we move beyond the rhetoric of the ideas, the labels, the stereotypes that divide our community, when we come together to build – and sell – affordable homes in Durham in partnership with hard-working, low-income families, we unite in building community.
People come together around the hammer at Habitat. As we work to eradicate poverty housing in Durham, Habitat is – and aspires to be even more so – radically inclusive. It’s the right thing to do, and we know we need all the help we can get as we strive to serve more of our Durham neighbors.
One of Durham Habitat’s founders, Worth Lutz, a man of few words, follows St. Francis’ advice to “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words when necessary.”
Our interfaith group realized we all shared a strong commitment to turning our faith into action, to preach our convictions with more than words. And so, together, our group framed a Habitat house in NECD. It was a very good day.
Shalom, Assalaamo Alaikum, Peace be with us all. And most of all … peace to our many Durham neighbors who still live in substandard housing.
Blake Strayhorn is the executive director of Durham Habitat for Humanity.
How to help
Durham Habitat builds and sells around 25 houses per year, and we repair homes for another 50 homeowners each year. We hope you’ll join us in our efforts to build homes, hope and community in Durham. We need your help.
To donate or volunteer to the Durham Habitat community, visit durhamhabitat.org.