The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday December 7th

3rd Teach-in Takes Religious Perspective on Attacks

The forum was the third in a series that examined alternative responses to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The first two teach-ins received national attention for their opposition to U.S. military retaliation.

The teach-in's nine speakers, who spoke in front of a capacity crowd in the auditorium of Hanes Art Center, each represented a different faith. Many said the military retaliation recently begun by the U.S. government is not consistent with their religious beliefs.

"Retaliation is rejected by my religion," said the Rev. Robert Seymour, a minister at Binkley Baptist Church. "I think it is clear that Jesus was a pacifist who said not to seek vengeance."

Several speakers quoted passages in the Bible to illustrate the divide they perceive between the beliefs of their faith and U.S. foreign policy. "The scriptures still say `Thou shall not kill,'" said the Rev. Curtis Gatewood, the president of the Durham chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "But all these things seem to go out the window when the United States declares war."

John Friedman, the Judea Reform Congregation's rabbi, said limited violence is needed in certain situations to ensure justice, but he cautioned against the United States acting purely out of vengeance in its response to the attacks.

"Revenge is separate from seeking safety and separate from seeking justice," Friedman said. "The problem with revenge is that we wish to enjoy it. Revenge harms the person who takes it as much as the person who receives it."

Several speakers argued that while the Sept. 11 attacks were made in the name of the terrorists' Islamic faith, religious fundamentalism has not been historically limited to Muslims.

"It is true there are extreme (Islamic groups)," said Rawdan Abu-Issa, a Muslim and a Sunday school teacher. "In every major religion you'll find people who take extreme measures and interpret the scriptures in an extreme way."

Speakers also said the United States, while not deserving of the attacks, must examine its aggressive foreign policies and the effect its high consumption of resources have on other nations.

Lenore Yarger, a member of the Catholic Workers, compared the United States to the ancient Roman Empire. "We have peace at the center of the empire at the expense of war on the fringes," she said. "Now the wars on the fringes in Africa, South America and the Middle East are coming home."

Yarger summarized the points of many of the speakers by explaining how her religious beliefs guide her political views. "Forced to choose between supporting the government or supporting my faith, I must choose the latter," she said.

Mab Segrest, a writer and civil rights activist who moderated the forum, said the discussion raised during the teach-in exemplified the fundamental values of the nation.

"(Chapel Hill) has been the most consistent place in the Triangle to examine and critique the actions of the U.S. government," she said. "This is the kind of practiced democracy without which claims of freedom ring hollow."

The University Editor can be reached at

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.


The Daily Tar Heel for December 1, 2021

Special Print Edition

Games & Horoscopes

Print Edition Games Archive