Tragedy may lead to interfaith solidarity Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Mar. 21, 2019 -- 12:00 AM

Maybe out of tragedy, the world might find some good, if outcries against the attacks at two mosques in New Zealand have shown.

Pope Francis expressed sorrow for the attacks, which left at least 50 people dead and dozens more injured. Speaking to people gathered in St. Peter’s Square on March 17, the Holy Father said, “I pray for the dead and injured and their families. I am close to our Muslim brothers and all that community. I renew my invitation for prayer and gestures of peace to combat hatred and violence.”

Both Pope Francis and everyone in the square observed a moment of silence for the victims.

Mass in New Zealand

Tears flowed during a Mass for peace at the Catholic St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 16, one day after the terrorist attacks at  the two mosques, reported Catholic News Service (CNS).

“When a family member dies, we feel deep grief and loss,” said Christchurch Bishop Paul Martin. “Such grief is raw and real, and words are completely inadequate.

“Today is such a day,” he told the packed pro-cathedral. “We are unable to express the confusion and pain we feel. Our grief threatens to overwhelm our community at the tragic loss of our sisters and brothers and the act of hate that has been inflicted.

“We know, in solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers who gathered in the Christchurch mosques and around the world yesterday, that our only hope is in God. Our only hope is in God. Our only hope is in God,” he emphasized.

CNS reported that across New Zealand and around the world, people gathered to pray for victims of the March 15 attacks. Accused shooter Brenton Tarrant appeared in Christchurch District Court March 16, charged with one count of murder. More charges are expected. He is to reappear in court on April 5.

Neighboring Catholic parish

Sancta Maria Parish, a Catholic parish in Christchurch, is less than two miles from the Al Noor Mosque at which 41 people were killed.

Marist Father Peter Head told NZ Catholic March 17, “You could sense the atmosphere at our Masses today was very different. Some of our parishioners knew some of those who were in the mosque,” he said.

The homily was directed toward the attacks. At the end of the homily, everyone prayed “The Prayer of St Francis of Assisi”. There were special prayers of intercession, and the eucharistic prayer for reconciliation was used.

Support expressed

CNS reported that Ikhlaq Kashkari of the New Zealand Muslim Association told the congregation he had received thousands of emails, phone messages, and texts, all expressing support in some way.

“I don’t have any words to express the gratitude and thanks for all we have received from all walks of life in New Zealand,” he said.

He added that people who wanted to promote hatred and division, such as the Christchurch shooter, had only succeeded in bringing the communities closer together.

Wisconsin Council of Churches offers suggestions

In a time of violence, the Wisconsin Council of Churches invited its member churches to take the following steps. As Catholics, we might consider following their example:

• To give high priority to better understanding and appreciating both our own and other religious traditions in our state, with the goal of fostering deeper interfaith relationships by creating safe spaces for dialogue, that we might learn from one another and deepen our own faith commitments.

• To examine and uproot all that might contribute to prejudice in our teaching, life, and ministries, including both disrespect toward Christians and Christian disrespect of others.

• To be compassionate neighbors, bearing witness to the love and justice of Jesus Christ when those of other faith traditions experience prejudice.

• To encourage dialogue with Americans of other religions to promote peace and justice in the U.S. and around the world, and in particular with American Jews and Muslims as integral to the church’s efforts for peace in the Middle East; encourage interreligious dialogue in other situations in which religion is identified as a factor in conflict situations.

• To condemn all forms of intolerance which turn religious differences into excuses for defamations, stereotyping, and violence; to defend their victims; to challenge and rebut statements about other faith groups or individuals that embody religious stereotyping, prejudice, and bigotry.

• To uphold religious freedom for all persons, defending the rights and liberties of cultural, racial, and religious minorities in the same manner that we defend our own.

• To support ongoing work with related organizations and people of other religions in public policy advocacy and to initiate work in other program areas of common concern.

Hopefully, the tragedy in New Zealand will lead to interfaith solidarity throughout the world.