June 5, 2020

Editorial

Every hate crime against a religious community hurts us all

“Religious freedom is rooted in the perennial teaching of the Church on human dignity. It teaches that religious freedom is the cornerstone of a society that promotes human dignity; it is a fundamental human right that follows on the duty of all people to seek the truth about God.” (Archbishop Charles C. Thompson, “We are One in Christ: A Pastoral Letter on Fundamentals of Christian Anthropology”)

The Catholic community in central and southern Indiana grieves with our sisters and brothers in the Muslim community over the senseless shooting that took place at Masjid E Noor (mosque) in Indianapolis on Eid al-Fir, one of the holiest days in the Muslim calendar. Every crime committed against a religious community, every desecration of a mosque, synagogue or church, is a violation of the dignity of human persons made in the image and likeness of God. Every attack against the religious freedom of one group is an attack on all of us.

In his 2018 pastoral letter, “We are One in Christ: A Pastoral Letter on Fundamentals of Christian Anthropology,” Indianapolis Archbishop Charles C. Thompson stresses that human dignity is essential to social justice. Each and every person derives their worth from the fact that we are all children of God. As the archbishop writes:

“The first key principle of Catholic social teaching is respect for the dignity of each and every human person—regardless of race, sex, nationality, economic or social status, educational background, political affiliation or sexual orientation—as created in the image and likeness of God. All are equal in dignity. No one is ‘better’ than anyone else. All deserve respect. All share basic human rights. No one is exempt from the responsibility to support and assist fellow human beings—whether they are from the same family/community, or they are strangers who are foreign to us in some way. Every human person, as created in the image of God, is a member of God’s family. For Christians, this also means that we are sisters and brothers of Christ and each other.”

As members of the one family of God, we have a solemn obligation to care for one another regardless of our differences. In cases where religious communities are attacked, it’s particularly important for all of us to stand together in compassion and solidarity and to insist, as the Indiana Muslim Advocacy Network did, that “We will not tolerate bigotry in our Hoosier State and will continue to work with our allies to ensure that worshippers in Indiana can practice their faiths safely and peacefully.”

Providentially, this year on the feast of Eid al-Fir, the day of the shooting, the Masjid E Noor mosque was closed due to the pandemic. Although a small group of men were inside praying, no one was injured. According to Syed Ali Saeed, the president of the mosque’s board, “Had it not been for the coronavirus, the mosque would have been filled to capacity. … It’s difficult to imagine how things could have been.”

Sadly, hatred and intolerance can be found everywhere, even among religious people whose actions are far outside the formal teaching of their religions. For Christians, the words of Jesus are absolutely clear:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Mt 5:43-45).

Nothing justifies the kind of hate crimes that, unfortunately, we see all too frequently today. That’s why we join with the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council in expressing “our solidarity with members of the Masjid E Noor congregation and the entire greater Indianapolis Muslim community.” As fellow believers in the God of Abraham, and as Hoosiers committed to safeguarding the common good of all, we Catholics join the Muslim community, and the Jewish community, “in urging local authorities to fully investigate the incident as a potential hate crime against the mosque and those present praying inside” (Statement of the Jewish Community Relations Council).

As Archbishop Thompson stresses in his pastoral letter:

“The Catholic Church opposes racism, sexism, nativism and all forms of prejudice against people who are perceived to be different from us, including strangers and enemies.”

Every crime against Muslims, Jews, Christians or people of different religious traditions is blasphemy—an unspeakable crime against the Almighty God who is the One all of us seek in our diverse ways.

Let’s all work together to denounce hatred and bigotry wherever it exists and to build communities of respect, tolerance and solidarity here in Indiana and throughout the world.

—Daniel Conway

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