Hamas Terror Attacks in Israel a Reminder to Confront Religious Hat
As we are all aware by now, Israel has entered a state of war following the horrific terror attacks in Gaza. Hamas, a terrorist group controlling Gaza, launched a coordinated attack against Jewish people, leaving over 1000 dead, among them many women and children and even infants. A number of Americans, including a couple from Minnesota, have also been killed.
We are also aware that over the years the Jewish people have dealt with repeated persecution from various groups; the Holocaust is what comes to mind for many, but up and down through the centuries the Jewish people have faced persecution and attack.
Sadly, persecution of course impacts people of all faiths. Catholics and Christians are routinely persecuted in China and many parts of the Middle East; in 2015, 21 Coptic Christians were murdered at the hands of ISIS terrorists. And there is also hatred against Muslims, too. Last week Joseph Czuba, a 71-year old man from Plainfield, Illinois, was overcome with rage and killed an innocent 6-year old boy because he was a Muslim.
The reality is that while on the one hand many things have improved in many parts of the world, there will always be religious violence that crops up. Even within religions, as we’ve seen between sects of Islam and Christianity in such places as Northern Ireland during “The Troubles,” there will always be at times violence in the name of religion, which of course is contradictory to the faith.
How then do we as Catholics deal with this, while at the same time balancing our faith with a belief that we are to evangelize?
I think a starting point is to remember that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. So often we see someone for their race, their political or religious beliefs first, and lose sight of how we are called to truly love all people. Especially since the Second Vatican Council with it’s decree in Ecumenism, the Church has spoken out very much on our connections to people of other faiths and God’s love not being just some type of exclusive thing for Catholics.
Second, it’s important to be aware of what is in our heart. Sometimes a person mentions in confessions they had certain thoughts that were “bad” for one reason or another; but I always remind people that one can’t control a thought that comes into their mind. Remember sin requires an act of the will. One cant control thoughts, but what do we do with the thought is the question. If a person takes say a thought of hate, and then starts acting on it through social media posts, through encouraging others to hate, through spreading slander and gossip, this then becomes a sin. When we become aware of anger and animosity in our hearts towards someone over religion, we can pray to try to overcome it; we can reflect on God’s love for all people, and pray for people of other faiths too.
At the same time, this is not to say one cannot ask difficult questions and have discussions about other religions. There are some parts of the teaching of other religions that warrant that, such as why is there not a stronger move for preaching tolerance, or why are Christians, as Pope Francis has asked, treated as second-class citizens in so many countries. As such, we can’t think it’s “taboo” to ask questions or even be critical when we are talking or having discussions about the teachings of other faiths and sects, whether you are speaking about Islam, or fundamentalist Christianity or Mormonism. We want on the one hand to be tolerant, but we believe Christ created one unique Church and strive to evangelize to the world to bring people to that Church.
Lastly, that brings us to evangelization. Tolerance is not silence, or thinking we can’t talk about our faith. Remember what Pope Francis said recently about the “polite persecution” that happens in the West; where we are protected on the one hand to worship, but the problem of political correctness where society can be very hostile to Christians. We don’t force the faith on others, but be it a conversation with someone about the faith or encouraging them to make better moral choices, praying in front of an abortion center, or refraining from doing things “everyone else” seems to be doing, faith is something we can’t be afraid to live out.
God’s love is so deep for us all, and sometimes we can all lose sight of that. Hate can cloud so much; and in the past week from the horrors in Gaza, to people being openly antisemitic against Jewish people marching in the streets of major cities in Europe and even on many college campuses here in the United States, we are again reminded of the darkness of hate. This what our Lord confronted on Good Friday, responding to that hate with love – forgiving all not just some. May we strive to follow that example, striving to destroy hatred with love for all people.
Have a Blessed week,
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