Hundreds gathered to stand in solidarity with the Muslim community of Chicagoland March 16 and 17 as Bahai’s, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, and people of good will gathered with Muslims in their houses of worship in vigils for the victims of the mass murders in Christchurch, New Zealand.
On Friday, March 16, 2019, Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago and Chancellor of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake, issued a statement on the murders in the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. His Eminence assured our Muslim brothers and sisters of “our prayers to the one, all-Merciful God for healing and comfort.” The Cardinal wrote:
“We know that the root of these acts is hatred, fear and ignorance of the “other,” which fuels attitudes that dehumanize whole communities and blame them for perceived ills in society. These fears are irrational, but they can produce horrific consequences. The murders in Christchurch, New Zealand, are only the most recent reminder of this global scourge.” He went on to issue a call to action. “Let this horrific affront to decency be a call to action by all people who cherish our common humanity. Religious, civil and political leaders have a responsibility not only to condemn these criminal acts, but to hold each other accountable for combatting the attitudes which breed them. Let us recommit ourselves to this task today, welcoming one another as “brother” and “sister” whenever we encounter them.”
Muslim leadership expressed gratitude for the Archdiocese and especially the Cardinal. Kareem Irfan, member of the National Catholic-Muslim Dialogue and past-president of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago said: “There is so much to be done by us together as the ‘ecosystem of hate’ whipped up by the White Supremacist terrorists continues its destruction with the willful backing and incitement of people in high & powerful places. God-willing, we will together counter all the hate being spouted with our concrete acts of love, compassion and togetherness.”
Several separate memorial services were organized across Chicagoland. Fr. Thomas A. Baima, Vice Rector for Academic Affairs, (who is also the Cardinal’s Vicar for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs), on Friday night read the Cardinal’s statement at the Muslim Community Center / Muslim Education Center in Morton Grove. On Sunday, he spoke at the Turkish Cultural Center in Mount Prospect. Father Baima noted: “For your Christian brothers and sisters, it is all the more painful that the attacks occurred in a city named for Jesus, who taught his disciples “You have heard it said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable . . .’ (Matthew 5:21-22) In this teaching, Jesus calls his followers to examine their hearts, especially the attitudes they hold that begets their actions. Only by rooting out attitudes of hate can humankind live in solidarity. . . Tolerance is not enough. We must strive for solidarity.”
The University of Saint Mary of the Lake has been involved in the dialogue with the Muslim Community for many years. In addition to Father Baima, two other members of the faculty serve on the Chicago dialogue. They include Fr. Raymond Webb, professor in the Department of Pastoral Theology and Dr. Melanie S. Barrett, professor in the Department of Moral Theology.