The Legacy of 9/11 and the Scientology Movement it Inspired
Out of the smoke and dust that engulfed lower Manhattan 21 years ago rose a humanitarian movement known for its ardent commitment to help: the Scientology Volunteer Ministers—a religious social service of the Church of Scientology.
The 9/11 terror attacks marked a turning point for Scientologists.
More than 800 Scientology Volunteer Ministers served in the aftermath of the attack. They traveled from across the country and abroad, providing support to emergency personnel and bringing order to the chaos. And they continued doing so throughout the entire eight months of the rescue and recovery effort.
“At any time, well over 100 Volunteer Ministers from the Church of Scientology mill around the remains of the World Trade Center,” wrote The New York Times on September 20, 2001. “On the day of the attack, they took in food to workers….When rescue workers stagger from the wreckage, the ministers, identified by their T-shirts, try to focus the workers’ minds and revive their bodies.”
“The Volunteer Ministers worked with great energy and great compassion at Ground Zero, helping to ease the physical burdens and mental strains of the rescue workers,” wrote a New York Police Chief in thanks. “The organization, the caring, and the dedication of your Volunteer Ministers were exceptional, very much appreciated, and will long be remembered by those who received their help.”
Within hours and the terror attacks, Scientology ecclesiastical leader Mr. David Miscavige issued a directive that was distributed to Scientologists everywhere: The Wake-Up Call. As its title suggests, it urged Scientologists to treat this event as a change point. And they did. As of September 11, 2001, there were 6,000 Volunteer Ministers worldwide. Today, Scientology Volunteer Ministers are among the world’s most widely recognized independent relief organizations, with hundreds of thousands on call to respond to disasters great and small. Whether helping at the sites of natural and man-made disasters or responding to the needs of their neighbors and communities, the bright yellow T-shirt of the Volunteer Ministers has become a symbol of help.
“The answer to this planet’s problems will not be found in the material,” said Mr. Miscavige in describing what that tragedy represented for the Church. “Of this there can be no question. For if those solutions can’t prevent war nation to nation, how then can it be expected to answer questions like love, happiness or peace of mind?”
He also pointed out that providing help in disaster zones is only one part of the picture.
“For while we can help in the worst of circumstances, when compassion itself demands each person to help one another, what about those everyday disasters simmering beneath the social structure? The marital difficulties and familial discord that ruins lives each day? The delinquent child and the parent with nowhere to turn for help? Not to mention oppression and depression, which all too often—with no other help in sight—turns to drugs as a last hope to dull the mental pain?
“And therein lies the greater story of our Volunteer Ministers…They are seen everywhere, in nations across the globe, bringing effective solutions before it is too late. Constantly visiting new communities to offer help with everything from marital difficulties, to tutoring of children, to providing counseling for the lonely.”
The pandemic was a practical example of the extent and effectiveness of the movement.
Scientology Volunteer Ministers spent the lockdown serving their communities with food and medicine delivery, operating helplines, providing backup to medical professionals at COVID testing and vaccination centers and helping overloaded medical professionals cope with the care of elderly residents at healthcare facilities. They reached out to other houses of worship to provide training and sanitization to ensure the safety of their congregations. They distributed millions of educational booklets to help people understand and apply the protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Volunteer Ministers movement has become truly grassroots, with hundreds of new Volunteer Ministers groups cropping up in towns and villages from South Africa and Uganda to Nepal, Papua New Guinea and throughout Latin America.
The Scientology Network airs Scientology: Tools for Life, a filmed introduction to the basic principles and technology that comprise the training these volunteers use. And the Tools for Life courses, the basic training for the Volunteer Minister, are available free of charge through the Volunteer Ministers and Scientology websites.
Each week, hundreds of new Volunteer Ministers complete all 19 Volunteer Ministers courses and become fully fledged members of the team.
In creating the Scientology Volunteer Ministers program in the 1970s, Scientology Founder L. Ron Hubbard wrote, “If one does not like the crime, cruelty, injustice and violence of this society, he can do something about it. He can become a Volunteer Minister and help civilize it, bring it conscience and kindness and love and freedom from travail by instilling into it trust, decency, honesty and tolerance.”
A Volunteer Minister’s mandate is to be “a person who helps his fellow man on a volunteer basis by restoring truth and spiritual values to the lives of others.” Their motto is that no matter the circumstances, “Something can be done about it.” And their creed: “A Volunteer Minister does not shut his eyes to the pain, evil and injustice of existence. Rather, he is trained to handle these things and help others achieve relief from them and new personal strength as well.”
The Scientology religion was founded by author and philosopher L. Ron Hubbard. The first Church of Scientology was formed in Los Angeles in 1954 and the religion has expanded to more than 11,000 Churches, Missions and affiliated groups, with millions of members in 167 countries.
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