American Catholics should take the lead in fighting “the scourge of anti-Islamic prejudice”, a US bishop has said.
Speaking against the backdrop of the US’s first Catholic-Muslim National Dialogue, San Diego’s Bishop Robert McElroy warned that the US is witnessing “a new nativism”, which, he said, “the American Catholic community must reject and label for the religious bigotry which it is”.
Dr McElroy challenged Catholics “to recognise and confront the ugly tide of anti-Islamic bigotry” in the US, actively to seek personal relationships with Muslims, to accompany the Muslim community as it wrestles with issues of religious liberty, and to join with them “to witness to and fight for” a Middle East where Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities can peacefully coexist.
“Religious bigotry thrives in an environment of social isolation,” he said, encouraging Catholics to build relationships outside their obvious social circles. “Encounter, which leads to friendship and, thus, deeper understanding, is the most important antidote to prejudice and bigotry.”
He especially urged US Catholics to reject such “repeated falsehoods” as the claims that Islam is inherently violent and that Muslim immigration threatens “the cultural identity of the American people”.
Such claims, he said, are strikingly reminiscent of the anti-Catholic bigotry that was once prevalent in the US, citing how even in the 1960 presidential election it was suggested that “in a (John F.) Kennedy presidency, it would be the Pope who would ultimately govern the United States”
The national Catholic-Muslim dialogue, which took place in the University of San Diego and was co-chaired by Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich, came after a decision last year by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, following more than 20 years of regional dialogues with representatives of the US Muslim community.
Inspired by Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on the relationship between the Church and non-Christian faiths, the dialogue seeks to foster understanding and collaboration between Catholics and Muslims.
Although prejudice needs to be fought, Dr McElroy recognised that real threats must also be faced. “I want to underscore that it is not bigotry to fear or to combat the violence and terror which some Muslims in the world have unleashed in the name of faith,” he said.
Describing the looming extinction of Christianity in the Middle East as “a terrible wound to the Christian community”, he also said it is “a great tragedy for the Muslim community” to see Muslim refugees denied safe haven in Europe.
The ultimate challenge for American Catholics, he said, is “to forge a secure future for all of the ‘peoples of the Book’ in the Middle East and throughout the world”.
Article Courtesy: The Irish Catholic