Catholics Must Combat Anti-Islamic Prejudice

via CNS:

San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy is challenging U.S. Catholics to take an active role in combating “the scourge of anti-Islamic prejudice.”

“We are witnessing in the United States a new nativism, which the American Catholic community must reject and label for the religious bigotry which it is,” he said in a keynote address delivered Feb. 17 in the University of San Diego’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice….

In his remarks, Bishop McElroy exhorted Catholics “to recognize and confront the ugly tide of anti-Islamic bigotry” in the United States, to actively seek relationships with Muslims on a personal level, to accompany the Muslim community as it wrestles with religious liberty issues, and to join with them “to witness to and fight for” a Middle East where Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities can coexist peacefully.

Bishop McElroy said U.S. Catholics should view with repugnance the “repeated falsehoods” that Islam is inherently violent, that Muslims seek to supplant the U.S. Constitution with sharia law, 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 United States.


You Can’t Defend Religious Freedom and Ignore Injustice toward Muslims

In the past few years, there have been a number of high-profile conflicts and debates surrounding religious freedom in the US. Specifically, Americans have debated the proper scope of what that freedom entails and whether or not our government has been trampling upon that right. Catholics have often been at the center of these debates. And one can’t help but notice that these have been primarily focused on particular cases that affect Christians—over conscientious objections to things like the HHS contraception mandate and same-sex marriage. Yet recent anti-Islamic actions and statements should cause these advocates of religious freedom, if their convictions are sincere and universal, to address Islamophobia in their advocacy.

Leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has spoken about his willingness to close down mosques that he evidently deems anti-American or somehow linked to an enemy of the United States. Even congressman Peter King from New York, often seen as a hardliner on such matters, refused to go as far as Trump, but argued that what is said and what happens inside Mosques need to be monitored by the United States government. Presidential candidate Ben Carson, meanwhile, has argued that Muslims who refuse to renounce the “tenets” of their faith should be ineligible for the presidency and that the principles of Islam are incompatible with America.

We are also seeing it in callous responses to the refugee crisis, one of the worst humanitarian crises in decades. People fleeing ISIS terrorists and Assad’s barrel bombs have been denounced as invaders, terrorists, jihadists, and diseased. Trump said these refugees could be a “trojan horse” for ISIS.

This anti-Muslim sentiment is not, however, only an American problem. Great Britain’s David Cameron has also indicated his willingness to close mosques. According to Trump, this is what inspired him to make the statement that the United States should be investigating and forcefully closing places of worship. Read More


Standing with Iraq’s Christians – And All of Its Persecuted Innocents

The militant group ISIS, which invaded Iraq from Syria and began seizing control of Iraqi cities several months ago, has systematically persecuted religious and ethnic minorities, forcing many to flee. The terrorist organization imposed Sharia law this past June and recently prevented Christian services from being held in Mosul for the first time 1600 years. Christians were given the option of converting to Islam, paying a jizya tax, or fleeing. Last week, the city’s remaining Christian families fled – and were reportedly robbed at ISIS checkpoints as they left.

These actions have prompted many Christians around the world to adopt the Arabic character of “nun” on social media in a show of solidarity with the persecuted.  This symbol had been painted and posted on the homes of Christian families in Iraq, marking them as targets for their beliefs.

It is heartening to read the posts and essays by Christian writers who express concern for the welfare of their brothers and sisters suffering in Iraq.  Their work has been a moving testament to the pain fellow Christians are facing and an important reminder that this suffering must not be forgotten.

But there has been a disturbing undercurrent in some of these tributes to Mosul’s Christians: an unspoken indifference to the plight of non-Christian Iraqis who are suffering with their Christian countrymen. Given that most Christian denominations are defined by their concern for all people regardless of their faith, I fear this is creating a discrete, insular provincialism that cannot be reconciled with Christianity and does no favors to broader Christian outreach.

As an example, here is Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry at Patheos:

The persecution of Christians happens under a great shroud of silence. Maybe, as John Allen has argued, persecuted Christians are too Christian for the Left to care, and too third-worldy for the Right to care (but, you know, there’s a War on Christmas on). And the worst thing for our governments would be to be seen in non-Christian lands as having any sort of special solidarity with Christians (yes, wouldn’t that be terrible), so better to err on the side of indifference. Right?

This blood is particularly on the hands of the American government, which has a special duty to help them and, I am sure, will do nothing of the sort.

Much credit should go to Gobry and his fellow bloggers for lifting this shroud of silence surrounding Christian persecution through their work – I certainly wouldn’t have learned as much about this crisis without their efforts.  But Gobry’s proposal for a governmental declaration of solidarity with Iraq’s Christians makes little sense.  What reason would the U.S. have for expressing any particular affinity for Christians over Muslims in Iraq, especially when ISIS extremism is affecting Sunni and Shi’a Muslims in different but equally disturbing ways?

For that matter, if the U.S. were to signal solidarity with a persecuted minority, why would it limit its symbolic gesture to only Christians?  Human Rights Watch reports that a variety of religious and ethnic minority groups, including Turkmen, Shabaks, and Yazidis, have also been persecuted for their beliefs and subjected to decrees similar to the one given to Mosul’s Christians.  A significant number of non-Christian believers are being affected by these decrees. Turkmen, for example, constitute the third-largest ethnic group in Iraq, with 500,000 living in the Mosul area and 30,000 in the city proper. Despite its large Christian population, the U.S. government obviously has no explicit Christian affiliation, and to express “special solidarity” with Christians in Mosul, which Gobry sarcastically suggests would be no big deal, is actually a serious affront to the other religious groups suffering similar harm in Iraq.

Michael Brendan Dougherty at The Week falls into a similar trap as Gobry, suggesting that Christians are the primary group that deserves American attention:

The U.S. owes Christians and other persecuted Iraqi minorities assistance… Mosul was a home for Christians for as long as Christianity existed. Not anymore. Now, the U.S. cannot restore these people to their homes, or reverse the desecration of Christian shrines. But our diplomatic, financial, and moral energies should be used to protect them from any further harm.

To his credit, Dougherty references other “religious minorities” throughout the essay, but he never actually names any of them.  The piece’s title reinforces a decidedly narrow view of whom American aid should assist: “Why America is duty bound to help Iraqi Christians.”

Dougherty calls for the U.S. to withhold financial aid to Iraq until its government does more to protect only afflicted religious minorities.  To argue this point is to ignore the besieged members of Iraq’s religious majority.  While Islam constitutes 97% of the country’s religious population, Sunni Muslims account for around 35% of the total religious population and Shi’a Muslims account for around 60%.  There have been atrocities committed against both denominations and the Iraqi government is not blameless.  To suggest aid should be preconditioned solely on the welfare of minorities – and to ignore the hardship inflicted on innocent Sunni and Shi’a Muslims – seems tone-deaf at best, since civilians of all religious communities have been unjustly affected. The Christian commitment to human rights is not limited to fellow Christians, but premised upon the belief that they belong to all people, regardless of their background.

Rorate-Caeli similarly frames the atrocities in Iraq solely through their impact on Christians in the region (and seemingly in a way to cover their past opposition to supporting those who have actually been fighting ISIS):

For two thousand years, our dearest brethren saw it all from Mosul… For years, we have been warning that support for terrorists in neighboring Syria would surely end badly. But even we could not imagine that it would end so badly so fast and over such a vast area. And yet, the insane Empire-builders are still handing billions and billions, and hundreds of millions of dollars to “moderate” terrorists! Where’s the outrage? Have you contacted your congressman, senator, president, MP, prime-minister expressing your outrage, begging this madness to stop?…

After two thousand years, it is finished. It’s over. Who will pay for the lasting damage lying Western politicians created by starting a process that would lead to what not even the first Islamic rulers, thirteen centuries ago, ever did, the obliteration of Christian life and populations?…

In Mosul, genocide has been accomplished. Where’s the outrage?

There is something vaguely, quietly cruel in this call to contact government officials as a response, first and foremost, to Christian persecution in Iraq.  One million Iraqis have fled the country in 2014.  500,000 people in total have left Mosul. Did the authors of this post think it unimportant to emphasize how a general diaspora of displaced Iraqis is equally unacceptable?  Are we to believe that Christian persecution is more important and worthy of collective action than the pain felt by those of other religions?

This is not to minimize the particularly brutal treatment of Christians by ISIS, but to emphasize that all forms of persecution to every religious group in Iraq are worthy of condemnation.  Christians should not simply stand in solidarity with their tribe, but with all believers of good will who are unjustly harmed or prevented from worshipping by ISIS’ extremism.  Action should not be a consequence of singular Christian oppression; voices should be raised because innocent people are prevented from exercising religious liberty and fully practicing their beliefs. Voices should be raised to defend ethnic minorities as well and to support the human rights and dignity of all who must live under ISIS’ vicious repression.

I understand that, as Christians, Gobry and Dougherty feel a particular connection with those who share their conception of the world, and I do not mean to suggest that any omission of other religious groups is tantamount to a dismissal of their well-being.  But to focus on Christians to the exclusion or marginalization of other minorities is to reject the universalism that is implicit in Christian teaching (catholic means universal, after all).  We must not risk even the slightest chance of conveying this attitude in any dialogue about religious persecution in Mosul.  Framing the unjust conditions that Christians face within the broader context of Iraqi upheaval and violence is critically important as a testament to the hardship endured by all.

Muslims, Turkmen, and Iraq’s other religious and ethnic minorities are as much our brothers and sisters as Christians in Iraq.  Christians around the world should not forget them as they pray and work for peace.

Chris Fegan is a graduate of Boston College and currently works in New Jersey. He and his fellow blogger Matt Mazewski write about politics, religion, and culture at Reasonably Moderate, where a version of this article first appeared.

 


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Poor Sanitation in India May Afflict Well-Fed Children With Malnutrition by Gardiner Harris: “An emerging body of scientific studies suggest that Vivek and many of the 162 millionother children under the age of 5 in the world who are malnourished are suffering less a lack of food than poor sanitation.”

Love People, Not Pleasure by Arthur Brooks: “People who rate materialistic goals like wealth as top personal priorities are significantly likelier to be more anxious, more depressed and more frequent drug users, and even to have more physical ailments than those who set their sights on more intrinsic values.”

How to deal with darkness by Matthew Warner: “If you struggle with pride, fall in love with humility. If you struggle with always being right, explore the wonders and freedom of admitting you’re wrong. If you struggle with lust, learn to value self-control and the dignity of others. If you struggle with envy, embrace admiration. Angry? Binge on forgiveness. Selfish? Commit to serving others.”

Learning from Bodies by Nora Calhoun: “If we let bodies speak to us in their own language, by being present to them and offering the gifts of touch and physical care, we can learn what is truly at stake and why it matters.”

Corrupting citizens for fun and profit by Michael Gerson: “Rather than building social competence and capital, politicians increasingly benefit when citizens are addicted, exploited, impoverished and stoned. And that deserves contempt, not applause.”

The age of entitlement: how wealth breeds narcissism by Anne Manne: “Even thoughts of being wealthy can create a feeling of increased entitlement — you start to feel superior to everyone else and thus more deserving: something at the centre of narcissism. They found this was true of people who were, in real life, better off.”

Parenting with Smartphones by Amber Lapp: “There are no rules, few guidelines to help us set boundaries between work and family life when we work from home. The freedom, the flexibility, the lack of script is both the blessing and the curse.”

Helping girls worldwide requires a united stand by Malala Yousafzai: “We are stronger than those who oppress us, who seek to silence us. We are stronger than the enemies of education. We are stronger than fear, hatred, violence and poverty.”

Choosing Transformational Marriage by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig: “Marriage lasts wherein the couple allow themselves to be transformed by it, and faithfully commit to that transformation, re-orienting the way they relate to one another and the marriage itself by willful habitation to the virtues of charity and kindness.”

Jihadists claim Baghdad blasts as Iraq rallies behind Christians by Jean Marc Mojon: “Until Saturday, there had been a continuous Christian presence in Mosul for about 16 centuries.”

 


After Hobby Lobby: A Single-Payer Health Care Solution?

Millennial co-founder Christopher Hale has co-written a new article in Time. They write:

A person’s access to quality healthcare shouldn’t depend on who their boss is. And an employer shouldn’t be heavily fined if they don’t compromise their religious convictions in providing healthcare for their staff.

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is a monumental first step in achieving a just and equitable American health care system that seeks first to serve those on the margins of society. But as we look towards the future, it’s necessary to consider major alterations or even alternatives to Obamacare to continue to advance healthcare reform.

The full article can be read here.


Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

A Nation of Takers? by Nicholas Kristof: “However imperfectly, subsidies for the poor do actually reduce hunger, ease suffering and create opportunity, while subsidies for the rich result in more private jets and yachts. Would we rather subsidize opportunity or yachts? Which kind of subsidies deserve more scrutiny?”

The pope’s message to the president by EJ Dionne: “But the pope’s main job is to pose a radical challenge to our complacency and social indifference. In doing so, he should stir an uneasiness that compels all of us — and that includes Obama — to examine our consciences.”

There are many reasons why Assad is stronger than ever by Michael Young: “A closely-related strategy pursued by the Assad regime has been to allow religious or political extremism to proliferate, in such a way as to portray itself as a foe of the extremists. This it has done in the Syrian conflict, releasing jihadists from prison, putting much less military pressure on them than on the more moderate opposition, and allowing them to control oil-rich areas to finance themselves. The objective has, again, been two-fold: to create dissension within opposition ranks and provoke conflict between opposition groups; and to entice Western public opinion into believing the Al Assads are a barrier against extremism, therefore should not be overthrown.”

Three refreshing gifts of Lent by Robert J. Wicks: “Don’t miss this Lent. Greater inner freedom, a richer sense of compassion, and a deeper sense of our relationship with God are waiting.”

Smuggled, Trafficked, Violated by Nicholas Sawicki: “Whether they’re sold as child sex slaves, harvested for organs, or forced into farm labor, the denial of  the basic human right to freedom for millions is a sad reality that our society has to deal with today.”

Closed City by John Carr: “Washington is not corrupted by secret gifts, but by the legal purchase of access and influence that come with endless fundraising and politics as usual.”

Burma’s Muslims Are Facing Incredibly Harsh Curbs on Marriage, Childbirth and Religion by Time: “Proposed regulations will restrict religious conversions, make it illegal for Buddhist women to marry Muslim men, place limits on the number of children Muslims can have and outlaw polygamy, which is permitted in Islam. More than 1.3 million signatures have reportedly been gathered in support of this plan, which is spearheaded by a group of extremist Buddhist monks and their lay supporters.”

Ukrainian Catholics flee Crimea to escape threats of arrest by CNS: “Members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church are fleeing Crimea to escape threats of arrest and property seizures, a priest told Catholic News Service just four days after Russia finalized the region’s annexation.”

Political skills for divine purposes by Michael Gerson: “Francis has a feel for powerful symbols of simplicity, humility and compassion, such as carrying his own suitcase, washing the feet of Muslim prisoners, inviting the homeless to his birthday party, touching the disfigured. In this case, old Coke is pretty old — the example of a wandering preacher who touched lepers and consorted with a variety of sinners and outcasts. As in that ancient example, Francis has combined traditional moral teachings with a scandalous belief that people are ultimately more important than rules.”

Under a Barrel by Lama Fakih: “These unguided, high-explosive bombs — which are cheaply produced locally and filled with explosives, scrap metal, nails, or other material to enhance fragmentation — are pushed out of helicopters, dropped on densely populated areas by the Syrian army. Used in this way, the bombs are incapable of distinguishing between civilians and combatants, making the attacks unlawful under international humanitarian law.”

The Very Real Prospect of Genocide in Burma by Romeo Dallaire: “The international community must take early preventive action now in order to reverse Burma’s current trend towards catastrophe and possibly genocide.”

Shadowed by Tragedy by Kerry Weber: “Rwanda is a country that longs to be known for something other than the genocide, and over the past 20 years, the nation’s government has worked hard to replace that reputation with a more positive one. In many ways, it has succeeded. Rwanda has made dramatic advances and now ranks among the cleanest, safest and least corrupt countries in Africa. Yet its deepest wound is one that cannot be healed by superficial changes.”


Around the Web (Part 2)

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

The Compassion Gap by Nicholas Kristof: “There is an income gap in America, but just as important is a compassion gap. Plenty of successful people see a picture of a needy child and their first impulse is not to help but to reproach.”

Arizona’s SB 1062 by Michael Sean Winters: “This law has not been advanced at this moment to remedy a constitutional infirmity. It has been advanced by those who oppose gay marriage and wish to enshrine the right of a baker or a photographer to refuse service to a gay or lesbian couple that is getting married. The text of the law may not target gays. The political intent clearly does. And, that is why it was a mistake for the Arizona bishops to voice their support for it.”

A Letter to My American Sisters by Fawzia Koofi: “The women of my country and I also remain hopeful that the international community, including the United States, will not abandon our country and will help us a little more in fighting extremism, consolidating our gains, moving toward ending violence against women, and achieving something that all women around the world want: equality for both genders and for all.”

The right’s Ayn Rand hypocrisy by Elizabeth Stoker: “Rand’s entire notion of morality is predicated upon the idea that a sacrifice such as Christ’s would be morally wrong, which means all ethics that flow out of her work will contain in them that seed of conflict with the central message of Christianity. Whether conservatives like it or not, to advance a Randian political ethic is to further an ethic that fundamentally denies the goodness of the sacrifice of Christ, and thereby can never be brought to union with any serious Christian ethics.”

Surprisingly, Most Married Families Today Tilt Neo-Traditional by W. Bradford Wilcox, Family Studies: “Public policies and cultural norms related to work and family should be geared toward maximizing flexibility, rather than locking in approaches geared to serving full-time, dual-income families, and toward renewing the employment opportunities of poor and working-class men who have become less “marriageable” in recent years.”

Some Catholic leaders need to follow Pope Francis’ lead by John Gehring, NCR: “Pope Francis has brought an unexpected season of renewal and hope for the Catholic Church not because he is a liberal or a conservative. He is inspiring so many because he acts like a Christian should act. Not a bad starting point for Catholic clergy and anyone who tries to follow in the footsteps of Christ.”

Creating the Peace Corps and Finding a Saint by Jason Welle, SJ, TJP: “The founding director of Peace Corps and the person largely responsible for creating these life-changing possibilities was Sargent Shriver, the president’s brother-in-law. Shriver was a man deeply rooted in his Catholicism, and his faith – especially a commitment to social justice – motivated not only his involvement in the early years in the Peace Corps, but all of his commitments in life.”

The Protection of the Church by William Saletan: “This is what happens in many parts of the world. Even in the midst of religious war, religious institutions provide the moral strength to contain the violence. Faith in transcendent values counters sectarian hatred.”

God or the god of Riches? by Dan Horan: “Ultimately, I believe, the issue is between God and us, between serving the will of God or serving our own will. It is between putting our desires and interests first and putting first the Kingdom of God.”

Ukraine: The Haze of Propaganda by Timothy Snyder: “Whatever course the Russian intervention may take, it is not an attempt to stop a fascist coup, since nothing of the kind has taken place. What has taken place is a popular revolution, with all of the messiness, confusion, and opposition that entails.”