The second is my fervent belief in the Vincentian and Gospel message to welcome the stranger among us and to demand social justice for those who are being ostracized, pushed to the margins (as Pope Francis so often notes and warns against), and discriminated against. As Vincentians and Catholics, we must speak for those whose voices are being muted and whose legitimate concerns and needs are being brushed aside in the “throw-away” culture that the Pope also regularly rails against.
Inad, my son-in-law and now the father of two of our grandchildren, was born and grew up in Amman, Jordan. He was educated there by French Jesuits. About five years ago, my wife and I traveled to Jordan to meet Inad’s family and enjoyed with them a wonderful post-wedding reception for my daughter and her new husband. They and their friends are warm and caring, as indeed the overwhelmingly vast majority of Muslims are. Like us, they value peace and desire a just and equal society where all are respected and dignity accorded to each. Experiencing this all first-hand, it pains me greatly now to hear the discriminatory, ignorant, unkind, and unwarranted comments that some in our society do not hesitate to make these days about Muslims.
In this hyper-sensitive atmosphere where so much invective is being hurled at those who are not exactly like us, especially our Muslim brothers and sisters, it is worth remembering the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan, as well as the Vincentian call to welcome and assist the stranger without regard to denomination or even lack of religion. The Pope’s message in the Jubilee Year of Mercy about the “Merciful and Kind” attributes Islam assigns to the Creator provides an especially compelling perspective.
To have a peaceful and loving society in which the human dignity of each person is respected, these messages from our Catholic Social Teaching and from our Vincentian heritage must be understood, heeded, and evidenced in our daily lives.
It is for these reasons that the Vincentian Family Social Justice Representatives prepared its Statement in Support of Our Muslim Brothers and Sisters. The statement draws its inspiration and language from the very recent Papal declaration of the Jubilee Year of Mercy and from Pope Francis’s 2013 Apostolic Exhortation “Joy of the Gospel.“
We pray that the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul and Blessed Frederic Ozanam will enable us to see true followers of Islam as neighbors and friends who share our values and aspirations for a better and more humane world.
Tom Dwyer is the Chair of the National Voice of the Poor Committee Chair, Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Our encounter, dialogue, and collaboration with brothers and sisters of other faiths is a witness to our unity as children of God and members of one human family. Access resources here on how to reach out to other faith traditions.