November 6, 2022 Essay: One Family in One God

Oct 28, 2022

Any religious intolerance or prejudice is contrary to Christian belief. How tragic it is that we have to state what should be an obvious truth, but a rising tide of anti-Jewish rhetoric and incidents in the United States, along with continued animosity toward Muslims, requires that all Christians be reminded that religious prejudice is antithetical to their faith.

The Anti-Defamation League reports that antisemitic incidents reached an all-time high in the United States in 2021, with a total of 2,717 incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism reported to them. This ought not to surprise us given the traffic in antisemitic tropes on social media sites and the willingness of certain politicians and public figures to use such tropes in social media and public events. In addition, we have seen a number of demonstrations in different parts of the country where persons have carried Nazi flags. All of these incidents must be considered in the context of the murder of 11 Jewish persons in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018. Antisemitism is a reality in the United States. All persons of faith must be unequivocal in rejecting any form of antisemitic, anti-Jewish, rhetoric or action, and never downplay its significance. To remain silent is to be complicit. This is the lasting lesson we learned from the Holocaust.

All of our recent Popes, drawing upon the work of the Second Vatican Council, have encouraged inter-religious dialogue and affirmed the importance of the freedom of religious belief. In his encyclical Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis writes: “One fundamental human right must not be forgotten in the journey toward fraternity and peace. It is religious freedom for believers of all religions. That freedom proclaims that we can ‘build harmony and understanding between different cultures and religions. It also testifies to the fact that, since the important things we share are so many, it is possible to find a means of serene, ordered, and peaceful coexistence, accepting our differences and rejoicing that, as children of one God, we are all brothers and sisters.’” [279]

Pope Francis has also addressed the need for continuing dialogue between Jews and Christians. “In our turbulent times, it is critical that Jews and Christians encounter one another more frequently and work together in an effort to counter certain negative trends found in our western societies: idolatry of self and money, extreme individualism and the culture of indifference…We are called to bear witness together to the God of mercy and justice, who loves and cares for all persons. We can do this by drawing upon the spiritual patrimony that we in part share…”

While Pope Francis has generated controversy for his willingness to sign interfaith statements with Muslim leaders, we should not forget the words of St. John Paul II, speaking to young Muslims in Morocco in 1985: “I believe that we, Christians and Muslims, must recognize with joy the religious values that we have in common, and give thanks to God for them. Both of us believe in one God, the only God, who is all justice and all mercy; we believe in the importance of prayer, of fasting, of almsgiving, of repentance and pardon; we believe that God will be a merciful judge to us all at the end of time…”

All of us need to prayerfully reflect on our attitudes toward Jews, Muslims, and all persons whose path to God is different from our own. Have we been open to them in love as our faith demands of us? Have we stood in solidarity with our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters when they have been the object of hateful rhetoric or violent action? The only path to peace is through mutual respect and dialogue between all peoples. Let us all follow that path faithfully.

— Fr. Mark Hallinan, S.J., Associate Pastor