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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, September 21, 2001

Religious leaders call for peace Religious leaders call for peace (September 21, 2001)

Response comes from 'best and deepest' parts of faith

by Pam Sturner

Agroup of 27 religious leaders, including 19 from Palo Alto, sent a letter to the local media Tuesday urging their countrymen to exercise restraint in responding to last week's terrorist attacks.

The signatories -- who include leaders of Presbyterian, Episcopal, Quaker and Unitarian congregations in Palo Alto and of the Islamic Society of Stanford University --called for a reaction that "will bring the perpetrators to justice, but will not cause the loss of more human life."

"We call upon leaders of all our nations to immediately cease the talk of war and any actions which will perpetuate the cycle of violence and revenge," the letter reads. It calls instead for "wisdom and sanity," condemns acts of hatred against members of ethnic minorities, and concludes, "Our world is too dangerous for anything but peace, too small for anything but love, too diverse for anything but deep human respect."

Diana Gibson, a Presbyterian minister from Menlo Park and the principal writer, said the letter resulted from a meeting of clergy members the day after the attacks.

"The feeling was, 'Wow, where are we, and how do we respond as religious leaders?'" Gibson said.

Finding compassion and forgiveness as common strands of their beliefs, the clergy members sought responses to the tragedy in the "best and deepest" parts of their faith, Gibson said.

While stressing the enormity of the attacks and the need to bring the perpetrators to justice, she said national leaders should learn from past wars and not fall back too quickly on military solutions.

"What we need to ask is, 'How do we move from a totally legitimate emotional response to holding ourselves accountable to what our faiths really call us to do, even when it's not necessarily what we feel like doing,'" she said.

Gibson cautioned that assuming the peacemaker's role is not the easier path. "We have to be willing to risk something for peace, just as we are for war, and we have to be able to ask of ourselves what we ask of our soldiers," she said.

She and the other religious leaders who signed the letter hope their words will cause communities to seek alternatives to violence.

In addition to local media outlets, Gibson planned to send the letter to Congressional representatives from the Bay Area.

E-mail Pam Sturner at


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