Although already responding to the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC, U.S. faith communities have had to cope—as has the rest of the nation—with communication breakdowns and other problems.

With U.S. air travel grounded, mail delivery halted and phone lines into New York City and elsewhere hard to access, church-related relief agencies have had to rely on the Internet for much of their communication.

"At the moment communications are next to impossible with our congregations, synods, districts, social ministry organizations," said Gil Furst, director for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Domestic Disaster Response Program. "They will all be part of our response."

ELCA congregations throughout the U.S. would be open for shelter and prayer, Furst said, and asked that pastors "be available for prayer and counselling."

The mood in New York City remained grim but determined. In one of the most culturally and religiously diverse cities in the world, churches, synagogues and mosques remained opened for prayer in the wake of the unprecedented terrorist attack, and numerous New Yorkers sought solace at places of worship.

But only one day after the two hijacked planes crashed into the twin towers of the landmark World Trade Center, a high level of uncertainty reigned in the city, where the number of fatalities is believed to be in the thousands.

US officials were evaluating early clues that responsibility for the attacks—which also included the Pentagon and the hijacking of a fourth plane that crashed in western Pennsylvania—may lie with Islamic militant Osama Bin Laden, who is believed to be in exile in Afghanistan.

There were reports of sporadic harassment of Arab residents in some parts of New ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.