Open Letter to Students in Light of Recent Events

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Open Letter to Students in Light of Recent Events,*

You know, you're young, and yet in your lifetime, you've known, most of your lifetime, a post-9/11 world.
You are not the first generation to know violence in your time.
You, I'm afraid, will not be the last.
I encourage you to be brave.
To promote peace, when the world is at war, with whatever it is warring against -- terrorists, global climate change, anxiety, etc.
We seem to always be at war with something.

In class, I ask you to "use your best brain," and I ask you to do this in the world at large,
as you leave this classroom, as you eventually leave school.
I believe in your abilities, your intelligence, your fortitude.
You are a generation who understands diversity better than previous generations,
you get it, in a way we, who are older, do not.
You comprehend how technology can be used for good,
but you're also hampered by it at times, and I encourage you to know the difference.
Discern the difference between real life and virtual life. Know when too much is too much.

Of late, we've been reminded of how awful human beings can be.
We've seen it in the terrorist acts occurring worldwide.
I wish better for you, for all of us.
It's why you're learning more about major world religions, we're working toward more understanding, I hope. You interview people of different faith traditions to learn not only what the religion is on paper, but how it is lived in real life. I tell you, the first day of class, that "all religions have blood on their hands." I also say that religion, at its best, can bring out great things in human beings: strength, courage, insight, beyond our wildest imaginings. Look at the list of Nobel Peace Prize winners, many of them credit religion with supplying the underpinnings of their hard, tough, amazing work in this world. I believe you are part of this long legacy of peace, your desire to learn more, comprehend more, to be ethical, even when no one is looking.

I have faith in you. Terror is nothing new to life on earth. It's been with us since before we stood upright as humans. Do not let terrorists, or anyone or anything else permanently throw you off your game. Do not let those who wish to harm others, don't let them have the last word. This is your academic adventure. I hope you get what you need: the tools, the skill, the knowledge. You have the gift of education. Use this gift well. The world needs you.

*Written for Major World Religion students, meant for students anywhere struggling, like the rest of us, to make sense of recent events