Prepare New York began as a coalition of New York based interfaith organizations, including Auburn Seminary and its Center for Multifaith Education, the Interfaith Center of New York, Intersections International, Odyssey Networks, Quest, and the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, who joined together to help create a city-wide climate to promote healing and reconciliation in anticipation of the tenth anniversary of 9/11. September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, the 9/11 Community for Common Ground Initiative, and Abraham's Path served as advisers to the coalition. Once the anniversary concluded, the Prepare New York coalition was determined to continue serving the people of this city and beyond.
The coalition was formed in part in response to the vitriolic debate that surrounded the proposed Muslim Community Center in lower Manhattan in 2010. At its inception, Prepare New York sought to “change the story” and to shift the conversation from one of fear and mistrust to a frame that celebrates New York’s extraordinary diversity and commitment to religious pluralism. In essence, Prepare New York sought to strengthen the social fabric of the city and serve as a model for other settings across the country. These goals remain as the future unfolds before us.
There have been many accomplishments:
The original coalition of six organizations came to be joined by more than 100 partners, including religious and secular organizations, companies and individual congregations.
We produced a video, We The People, that examines our current controversies in the area of religious intolerance in light of the full swath of American history. The video has had more than 70,000 views on YouTube since its launch on June 30, 2011.
We created a child-friendly, interactive engagement, Ribbons of Hope, that complemented other activities in the city during the 9/11 weekend. Our project drew more than 20,000 participants in the symbolic act of writing thoughts, hopes and prayers on ribbons and bringing those ribbons to Battery Park in lower Manhattan, where they were attached to 12 nine-foot tall panels, creating colorful tapestries reflective of the great diversity in the city and beyond. The panels were displayed in Battery Park for the full 9/11 weekend and then toured throughout the city in both sacred and secular places for the remainder of 2011. At year’s end, Ribbons of Hope was featured at Mayor Bloomberg’s annual interfaith breakfast.
Additionally, on September 11, we organized a traditional Japanese Floating Lantern Ceremony at Pier 40, commemorating the victims of the World Trade Center attacks. With almost 2,000 participants, the ceremony featured religious leaders representing Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Sikh, Afro-Caribbean, and Shinto faiths and traditions.
We developed curricula on religious tolerance and the meaning of 9/11 that are designed to encourage and support conversations on topics related to interreligious understanding and respect for difference. The materials have been created to be a critical resource to schools and educational settings, workplaces, houses of worship and congregations, as well as civic organizations.
We facilitated more than 250 "CoffeeHour Conversations" that highlighted the importance of religious pluralism, educated New Yorkers and others about different faith traditions, and provided opportunities for people to come together across lines of difference for learning and conversation. Some of the events included profound, first-person stories of individuals directly impacted on 9/11: first responders, bereaved family members, and survivors - many of whom are now engaged in local and international peace-building efforts. Programs took place in houses of worship, libraries, schools, workplaces, restaurants, government offices buildings, theaters, and even a few community gardens and neighborhood parks.
We hosted 13 hour-long live chats that resulted in more than 100 pages worth of transcribed interfaith dialogue.
We completed media training for local and national religious leaders, so they could engage the media effectively around issues of religious tolerance and pluralism.
We hosted five performances of Under the Veil – an interactive theater production focusing on being Muslim in New York post 9/11. More than 500 people attended these performances. Following the play, participants were invited by the artists to a facilitated dialogue on the issues raised in the play.
We created a Prepare New York web-hub and a Facebook page. The interactive web-hub was hosted on the Ning platform and drew more than 300 members who actively participated in live chats, blogs and other online events. The web-hub also drew recognition from the Ning community for its ease of use, good design, and inspiring subject matter.
Our Ribbons of Hope Facebook page had nearly 70,000 interactions during the month of September, 2011.
These accomplishments only touch the surface of the transformative power this effort has had in the lives of individuals who participated. We helped provide a positive and healthful platform through which the anniversary of 9/11 could be honored and differences celebrated. Our efforts helped to contribute to peaceful and constructive reflection; one in which New Yorkers and Americans could interact with in a meaningful way. We stand ready to be of service to the people of New York as the future unfolds before us.