Religious leaders responded to global violence and terrorism with solidarity and prayer on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
“We will stand together, strengthened by the faith of each one in this room and the solidarity we share, simply because we know how to answer the question ‘Who is my neighbor?’” stated Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., preaching on the Parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke at a Dec. 16 interfaith prayer service.
“Let us never forget, we are each other’s neighbor,” he added.
The “Interfaith Gathering for Solidarity, Understanding, and Peace” took place at Georgetown University on Dec. 16, featuring prayers, readings, and reflections from Catholic, Christian, Muslim, Sikh and Jewish leaders.
The purpose of the gathering was to give public witness to values of solidarity and tolerance in the wake of recent global and domestic violence, and subsequent animosity shown towards certain religions. Leaders of different faiths gathered to “realize the shared resources of our traditions,” as Georgetown University’s president John DeGioia stated in his opening remarks.
We must never let violence and terror change how we see innocent persons, Cardinal Wuerl insisted.
“Much has changed, beginning with the 9/11 attacks and with the terrorism abroad and now here in our land,” he acknowledged, but he added that “the actions of a few must never change all of us.”
Evil thrives when bad actions are met with silence, he explained. “Today we’re addressing the silence. We’re standing together…all saying this is simply not us,” he said. “We will not be changed because of the violence and the hatred of others.”
Vice President Joe Biden was in attendance and addressed the audience just before the service ended.
Turning to Cardinal Wuerl, he remarked, “You said it best when you said ‘we receive that spiritual power to participate in the transformation of the world, or at least our small part of it, the transformation into something wonderful.’ This service is something wonderful.”
Man, created “in the image of God, in the likeness of God,” possesses “free will” and the ability to “discern,” said Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, a senior rabbi at the Washington Hebrew Congregation, in a reflection on Genesis 1:26-27.
“Let this gathering be our promise: that we will choose love over hate. Peace over violence. That we will endeavor to live as God’s children bringing compassion and tolerance and building for our children and our children’s children a world better than ours,” he continued.
“May we act as if we were worthy, worthy of being created in God’s image. This is our prayer. This is our hope.”
Man has a two-fold identity, human and religious, said Talib M. Shareef, imam and president of The Nation’s Mosque. He explained how in the Koran, Adam is considered father of the human community and “gives us our human identity,” and Abraham is also called “Father” and “gives us our religious identity.”
“If you come out of these identities and begin to devour each other, call each other names,” he added, “then you begin to lose not just religious identity but human identity,” and this can be considered “inhumane.”
In his concluding prayer, Metropolitan Tikhon, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, asked for sacrificial love and for an “uprooting” of all “indifference, suspicion, cowardice, and hypocrisy.”
“Enable us to love others with a sacrificial and self-emptying love that we see in your servant Jesus Christ, who comes to us in extreme humility,” he prayed.
“All-compassionate Lord, establish in us Your Love, that we may truly love not only our brothers, sisters and friends, but our enemies as well, and do good to those who hate us.”