Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Catholic Answer to Islamophobia

Father Aniello Salicone, sx, discussing Hinduism
Every day we read and hear, (nevermind see) atrocities committed by ISIS.  We are shocked and rightly so.  That's why these atrocious acts are called terrorist.  The feelings terrorism give rise to vary: rage, silence, shock, etc.  Probably the last feeling would be to converse in a calm and intelligent manner.  But, I think this is the correct, and the Catholic response.

You can't equate ISIS to Islam, no more than you can equate Christianity to the Klu Klux Klan.  So I don't mean to enter into discussion with them, at least in the beginning.  We need to converse with the practitioners of Islam who are just as horrified at terrorism, as everyone else is. It may seem counterintuitive to talk to Muslims, but from my experience of talking to practitioners from different religions, in prison ecumenical groups, it is a very good method of overcoming prejudice and fear.

Talking to people leads to understanding.  I've seen this in simple matters.  I know that my perceptions of people in prison changed when I talked with them (got to know them).  I know that my perceptions of gay couples, the transgendered, and other people from different faiths, have changed.  Hence, talking with Muslims will lead to understanding on both sides.  

Think of it.  If we all unite, we can push out the extremists.  Think of dialogue, as building the future.  That's the way Bishop Denis Maden, from the U.S. bishops' Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue
sees it, too.  On the site Global Mission, Bishop Maden proposes that dialogue take place in our parishes and communities.  We must respect everyone's views and work together for peace.

I know that in my prison we have ecumenical discussions.  My parish, also, is in an interfaith consortium.  In fact, we're hosting the Thanksgiving service.  In a nearby shrine, Fatima Shrine, the Xaverian missionaries host ecumenical discussion forums.  In fact, their mission statement explains:

We respond to Jesus Christ's invitation to be His witnesses to the ends of the world by a life-long commitment to serving the global mission of the Church through interreligious dialogue, support to fledgling Christian communities and solidarity with the poorest among them.

I know that if you're upset and angry at the terrorists, you probably want to lash out. But Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies.  Do that.  Pray.  While you are praying, also look around for opportunities to learn about Islam.  Go to the ecumenical and interfaith functions.  Read balanced and fair articles on Islam.  This is the way to understanding.  And understanding is a good solid step towards peace.

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