16 September, 2010

Interfaith Leaders Denounce Bigotry Against Muslims.

FLASH- UPDATE Benedict speaking in the UK about freedom of worship, and strongly supports the call to ecumenical dialogue and for respect for other religions and faith communities. 0-17-10.

After nine years, the 9-11 memorial in New York remains unfinished. Apart from any technical difficulties, there have been many kinds of disagreements, squabbles, even fights over the memorial. All of these differences and disagreements pale in light of the polarization that characterizes this nation today over plans by Muslims to build a Muslim Center (which will contain a Mosque and prayer space for those of other religions).
It is very understandable that some, perhaps very many, of the survivors, their families, and close friends would carry resentment, even hatred, toward the terrorists and by extension Muslims or Islam. All of us are human after all.
The question is, why have so many other Americans become so upset and angry over building the Center; even to the point of willingness to abrogate key portions of the US Constitution?
It seems to me that the “causes” are many and complex. Some of the things that have affected this outpouring of opposition and even hatred include:
  1. A general frightening feeling that “America,” has or is loosing it’s preeminent status as the “world power.”
  2. Confusion and frustration over two “wars” that have produced partial military solutions but without viable political solutions even after the deaths of thousands of people and spending millions and millions of dollars prosecuting these “wars.”
  3. The tremendous US and international economic collapse we are suffering, with loss of jobs, many of which will never return, the inadequacy of healthcare reform, and gridlock resulting in a lack of faith in the recovery and re-attainment of secure jobs.
  4. The seeming exploitation of the economic “recovery” by politicians and media for their own political gain or increased ratings.
  5. Woefully inadequate knowledge of the history of the Middle East and even a more abysmal lack of understanding of Islam.
  6. and perhaps most of all the development and use of extreme “Christian” anti-Islamic attitudes and actions against Islam. Think of “burning Korans” or marches with nasty signs in Murfreesboro, TN. 

An Interfaith Response.
On September 7, 2010 representatives of Mainline Protestant (Eg. Methodists and Episcopalians, the Orthodox) Christians, Roman Catholic Christians, Evangelical Christians, Jewish, and Muslim religious leaders met to present a very strong and positive message, calling all religious people witness to their one God of Love, justice, and mercy.
The statement begins with these strong words:
As religious leaders in this great country, we have come together in our nation’s capital to denounce categorically the derision, misinformation and outright bigotry being directed against America’s Muslim community. We bear a sacred responsibility… to promote a culture of mutual respect and the assurance of religious freedom for all… we announce a new era of interfaith cooperation. (Emphasis in original).

The statement continues to make several points:
  1. There is support for the Constitutional and traditional Freedom of Religion. They claim the right to, “give witness to our own moral convictions in the public square as well as individual, “freedom to worship in congregations of our own choosing.
  2. That rather than give in to, “the anti-Muslim frenzy that has been generated over the plans to build an Islamic center and mosque… near Ground Zero,” the Interfaith group proposes that we, “…not… debate the the Park 51 project [center and mosque] anew, but rather respond to the atmosphere of fear and contempt for fellow Americans of the Muslim faith that the controversy has generated.
  3. That as Americans and people of faith, “We stand by the principle that to attack any religion in the United States is to do violence to the religious freedom of all Americans.”
  4. Realizing that in a globalizing world religious differences must not “…lead to hostility or division between communities… that no religion should be judged on the words or actions of those who seek to pervert it through acts of violence… that bearing false witness against our neighbor – something condemned by all three of our religious traditions – must be counteracted by truly seeking to understand “the Other” and building on our common belief in a God of love, justice and mercy.
  5. That, “Leaders of local congregations have a special responsibility to teach with accuracy, fairness and respect about other faith traditions” and to discover ways to extend interfaith collaboration into common action through interfaith, “education, inter-congregational visitations, and service programs that redress social ills…”
  6. That as the diligent work of our scholars has shown, “Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all see an intimate link between faithfulness to God and love of neighbor; a neighbor who in many instances is the stranger in our midst.” It is by beginning at the point we all can agree on –love of God and neighbor- that we can live in harmony in a diverse, global world.

A few observations.

This document was signed by 35 religious leaders (See last 3 pages of the statement) by a goodly number of Jewish and Muslim leaders and Evangelical, Orthodox, Mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders (including Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, DC; Fr. James Massa representing the USCCB; and Mr. Nicholas Richardson, Communications Director of the Archdiocese of New York).
In light of this charged situation, these leaders spoke as prophets arising out of the best of their traditions.
They made the very wise decision to condemn violence and hatred. They went on to emphasize that the beginning of dialogue and action must arise from what we hold in common –Love of God and neighbor- and not from our differences (only a few of which are very serious and difficult to deal with).
Pope Paul VI, in Evangelii Nuntiandi, asked why do we send out missionaries? His answer effectively said not to “convert” others but to live the joy of the Gospel in such a way that some others would be attracted to the Faith by the action of God in their hearts. We might ask, “Why care about the Muslims? Isn’t our Christian task to proselytize them and convert them to Christianity? I would say, at this moment, we Christians ought to live our Gospel and love our Muslim Neighbor. We can leave the “converting” to God.

These leaders correctly, in my judgment, linked their religious message to the legal and Constitutional rights that Americans possess: the freedom of religion and freedom of speech. I have seen time and again pleas or demands by conservative Evangelical Leaders and the recent popes that their missionaries and religious communities be allowed to live, worship and otherwise practice the Christian faith in other more closed societies (E.g. Saudi Arabia, Iran). But it behooves us to practice what we preach and what we desire from other countries, not only because it is the morally right thing to do, but because it will help Christians who want access to other countries.

Finally, the Leaders who signed this document were, again, wise to emphasize the need for dialogue and action at the level of the local congregation or parish. The bi-lateral and multi-lateral high level dialogues at the national and international level between and among denominations (Catholic, Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Southern Baptists [with Catholics terminated by a decision of the SBC], has borne much fruit, although there remain many tensions within and between some groups.

However, “the rubber [really] hits the road,” so to speak, when actual people, people who live in the same or nearby communities, come together face-to-face and begin to listen to and learn from each other; when people of different religious traditions actually interact with each other, come to understand each others’ ways, act together, and, perhaps, come to trust each other, healing may occur to all, so that we become more faithful, Jews, Christians, and Muslims (and those of other faith traditions also).

Please feel free to comment on this or any other of my blog posts.


  1. Bigotry against Muslims? No faith is more persecuted and the victim of bigotry than Catholics. Write a post on the 58 Catholics, 3 priest murdered and 70 plus Catholics severely injuried in Iraq on Sunday by Muslim extrememist. Christians in the middle east are being murdered by the hundreds counties such as China, Iran, Iraq, India, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the Gaza strip, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Nigeria and the persecution of Catholics and the Church by the City of San Francisco and the lack of concern this past week by the Federal court of the ninth circuit. As Dr. Levvy a well known atheist and world leading socialist and sociologist recently stated " Catholics are the most persecuted religion on earth" or you could talk about how Great Britain has force every Catholic adoption center close down because it's refusal to adopt children to gay couples or you could speak of how in America the ACLU is suing Catholic hospitals because they refuse to kill unborn children. Or you could address the issue the Obama admin. is considering taking on Catholic hospitals. How many Catholic hospitals will be forced to close it's doors? Maybe all of them? Almost half of the hospitals in the United states will close down? What about healthcare then? Or you could talk about how militant homosexual groups are disrupting Mass and blasphemy against the Holy Eucharist. Or how well know gay websites are compiling a list of names of laity, bishops and cardinals in the United States who speak against same-sex marriages, so these people can be harassed and verbally assaulted and maybe physically abused. Or you could talk about the art exhibit in Mass. The showed pictures of the Virgin Mary holding weapons such as semi-automatic rifle, a bomb belt, and grenade launcher. Or the art exhibit in New York that says "Jesus was a homo" and is sodomizing an apostle. Or you could talk about the bishops in Mexico who face death threats by the drug cartel. Or you could speak of the priests in Holland that are fined for not marrying same-sex couples or the priest sent to jail in Holland for refusing to pay the fine. Or you could talk about the Muslim extremist who this week threatened all Catholics in Iraq and the Holy Father with death "the killing sword". Or you could talk about Bill Mahr constant attack on Christianity. Or President Obama's deafening silence on the killing of Catholics in Iraq. You could talk about the plot to kill the pope by Muslim extremist that was foiled by Italian authorities in March, May and August of this year.

    When will you start defending the faith you were baptized and confirmed into? Also when will you stop attacking me on another mans blog. I doubt you will publish this..can't blame you. Or you simply will say "thank you Davide". Is it in you to do what Christ demands? Is it in you to be a faithful Catholic?

  2. I might owe you an apology for my last paragraph in the above comment. I looked through all your post and only a couple of times did I see you defend the Church. In May of this year you talked about the hideous crimes committed against gays, but you fail to mention Catholics being killed greatly exceeding gays being murdered. Of course we don't want gays to be persecuted the way Catholics are. Every day on the news Ken attack after attack against Christ and His Church. I just wish you would post something regarding this it's not like their isn't enough to talk about.

    Of course you do not have to do this. I should not make you feel you must defend the Church. And I definitely do not understand why you talked about me on Michael blog maybe someday you will explain this.

  3. Davide,
    Thank you for your comment.
    In a comment on my recent report on "support" for gay marriage you said again that you don't get [my] theology. We both agree on that.

    I have never asked or tried to accept my theological positions, but I had hoped you would have understood them. Whether it is my inability to communicate them or your inability or unwillingness to see anything other than your own perspective, the fact is that we cannot have fruitful discussions

    BTW, I do not go out of my way to defend the Church. Neither do I go out of my way to criticize the Church. I certainly make my posts based on recent events that relate to the Church in my purview. I will admit that I do not emphasize an "apologetic" stance in theology.

    I continue to pray, not to convert you to anything, but for your health and well being in your new life. Seb

  4. When we defend the Church Ken we are defending Christ and our brothers and sisters in faith.

  5. Thank you for your comment Davide. All I will say is that you too closely identify the institutional Church with Christ. The Church is the the SACRAMENT of Christ. The Church IS NOT Christ Christ who reigns in heaven with God.

    This will just be another example of something we disagree on.

  6. Why would you believe the Church is the sacrament of Christ when you don't believe so much other things. This what I don't get about you. You pick and choose. Why do you even belong to an "institutional" church especially when you feel they are wrong at so many levels>I never would.

    Tell me Ken why should the church change its position on key issues. And what are those key issues? I am sure you have some in mind. What are they and why should they change? Cause you say they should? Did Christ leave you to be the pope? I don't recall every hearing about this.I love for you to answer this question but I doubt you will.

    okay thanks

  7. BTW Ken Christ is God!!! thought you should know. Unless you meant the eternal father. But many Catholics don't believe Christ is God. Are you one of them?


Comments most welcome.