Talk presented at the U.S. Muslim & Christian Coalition (MCC) Inaugural Dinner & Fundraiser
ADAMS Center, Sterling, VA
Friday, May 01, 2015
It is a pleasure for me to be with you this evening for this inaugural dinner and fundraiser for the Muslim Christian Coalition.
We gather this evening during a very significant time for inter-religious dialogue. We are within the 50th Jubilee Anniversary window of the Second Vatican Council and within the year that we are celebrating the promulgation of the document Nostra Aetate – a document that in many ways paved the way for what we are doing here this evening.
Approximately fifty years ago, the Catholic Bishops form all over the world gathered at Vatican City in Rome with Pope John XXIII, in what is known as the most significant religious event in the last 100 years – The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. At this meeting the Catholic Church gathered to discuss, among many things, how it was to engage the modern world and in doing so asked some fundamental questions:
- What is man?
- What is the meaning, the aim of our life?
- What is moral good, what is sin?
- Why is there suffering and what purpose does it serve?
- Which is the road to true happiness?
- What are death, judgment and retribution after death?
- What, finally, is that ultimate inexpressible mystery which encompasses our existence: whence do we come, and where are we going?
These questions, recognized by the Council Fathers to be important to other world religions, were included at the beginning of the document Nostra Aetate (meaning “In Our Time”) of the Second Vatican Council. The document is known in English as The Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions. It was promulgated October 28, 1965, fifty years ago this coming October.
Nostra Aetate marks the beginning of a new era of dialogue between the Catholic Church and other world religions, but particularly with Judaism and Islam which shares a common belief in “the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to mankind”…and most notably in Abraham who can be rightfully called our father in faith.
In speaking of Muslims, the Council Fathers said in the document, “The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems…[who] revere [Jesus] as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render the rewards to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.”
The pontificacies of Pope John Paul II, of blessed memory, Pope Benedict XVI, and presently Pope Francis, have embraced the call of Nostra Aetate to a new course of dialogue. These three champions of peace and dialogue have forged new roads between the Catholic Church and Muslim nations. This gathering tonight is a product of the pioneering works in interfaith dialogue that these and other great men and women have forged. Without their example we would not be here tonight at this fundraiser. And yet this is more than a fundraiser of course. What we demonstrate here tonight is a concrete sign of solidarity in religious freedom and solidarity in a call for the basic human rights of all peoples.
I applaud ADAMS for hosting tonight’s powerful sign of solidarity in interfaith tolerance and coexistence as well as in defending the religious liberties of Christians in the Arab world and those of other minority groups. This fundraiser for persecuted Christians in a mosque is a visible statement of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” And so we all must stand together in solidarity against injustice everywhere…in the Holy Land, here in Virginia, in the U.S., and everywhere.
In December of this year, the Catholic Church will also be celebrating the 50th Jubilee of another document of Vatican II of equal importance – Dignitatis Humanae. This document, known as the Declaration on Religious Freedom, may be the most important of all the Vatican II documents given what is happening today in the Middle East and in our own country.
Allow me to read a short section of this important document:
“This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such a way that no one is to be forced to act on a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.”
In spite of our own troubling times, when religious freedom seems to be under attack everywhere, we must listen to the hopeful words of Nostra Aetate, which begins by looking at what people of faith have in common and therefore what we can do together – “In her task of promoting unity and love among men, indeed among nations, the Church considers above all in this declaration what men have in common and what draws them to fellowship.”
And what is it that draws us together in fellowship? The belief that “one is the community of all peoples, one their origin, for God made the whole human race to live over the face of the earth.” One is also our final goal, namely God. “His providence, His manifestations of goodness, His saving design extended to all men, until that time when the elect will be united in the Holy City, the city ablaze with the glory of God, where the nations will walk in His light.”
Thank you again for this opportunity to come before you on this historic occasion of the first inaugural dinner and fundraiser for the MCC.
The MCC is an Initiative by The
Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation