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Bishop challenges Catholics to combat ‘ugly tide of anti-Islamic bigotry’

22 Feb 2016 – By Denis Grasska

SAN DIEGO (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 17 February in the University of San Diego’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice.

The evening event took place against the backdrop of the first national Catholic-Muslim dialogue, which was held 17-18 February at the Catholic university.

Last May, after more than 20 years of regional dialogues with representatives of the U.S. Muslim community, the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops established a national Catholic-Muslim dialogue.

Motivated by the call of “Nostra Aetate,” the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on the relationship between the Catholic Church and non-Catholic faiths, the dialogue seeks to foster understanding and collaboration between Catholics and Muslims. Chicago Archbishop Blase J. Cupich has been named its first Catholic co-chairman.

In addition to Bishop McElroy’s speech, the evening also featured a keynote speech by Sayyid M. Syeed, national director of the Islamic Society of North America’s Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances, who reflected on the state of Catholic-Muslim relations from the Muslim perspective.

A discussion with both men was conducted on stage by Ami Carpenter, an associate professor at the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, with members of the audience invited to ask questions.

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.

However, the bishop’s denunciation of prejudice does not signify a denial of the reality of terrorism.

“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 explained, while acknowledging that some Christians also have attempted to use their faith to justify acts of violence.

Bishop McElroy also challenged U.S. Catholics to overcome the “patterns of social segregation” that lead them to associate almost exclusively with people from similar backgrounds. Because of this trend, he said, many Americans do not have a significant friendship with a single member of the Muslim faith.





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