Views of CCJR Members

Religious intolerance contradicts SJU's mission

From The Hawk (the student newspaper of Saint Joseph's University) 


To the Editor,

The Dec. 4 issue of The Hawk reported on yet another incident of a member of the St. Joseph’s community being verbally demeaned, this time apparently because of religious caricature and bigotry.

We wonder why the desire to humiliate people seems more and more widespread, not only on our campus, but in the world in general. Worse, with others in our community we’ve struggled with how to respond to recent mass killings around the world of Christians, Muslims, Jews and Sikhs even while they were at prayer.

While there is a vast gulf between verbal insults and murder, history shows that when a society becomes inured to hostility against identifiable groups, there is a slippery slope from negative speech, to social avoidance, to civil and legal discrimination, to physical attacks, and, ultimately, to genocide.

The Dec. 4 editorial rightly noted that insulting the adherents of any religious tradition “contradicts the very mission” of St. Joseph’s and saw a “need for religious tolerance at a Jesuit institution.”

We agree with the minimal standard of tolerance, but believe that St. Joseph’s Jesuit and Catholic identity (and the vision of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations that we direct) aspires to something more profound: building genuine friendships with those who differ from us in some way.

A rabbinic saying declares that human diversity reflects the greatness of the Creator. In a Quranic passage, God says that humanity was created in diverse “nations and tribes so that you might come to know one another.” Pope Francis has explained that his ongoing dialogues with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, Ph.D., were “very important because my religious life became richer with his explanations, so much richer.”

This is what the St. Joseph’s community is dedicated to. Much more than the mere toleration of our differences, we seek constantly to be mutually enriched by them.