The Interfaith Peace Project: A Passionist tradition of establishing peace through dialogue and respect
From the earliest foundation of the Passionist Congregation it has always dreamed of pursuing ecumenical dialogues and bringing unity to all God’s people. Bl. Domenic Barberi, CP achieved the dream of the founder in establishing a foundation in England and through a strategy of apologetics and pastoral dialogue he triumphed in bringing clarity to the union of the Christian message. Through Bl. Dominic we celebrate the conversion of many notable people like John Henry Newman who is now in the process for canonization.
Times have moved on but the Passionist community has never lost sight of this noble cause to unify the human community through the strategies employed by Bl. Domenic Berberi, CP. Our Church continues to be engaged in further developing its Ecumenical dialogues. But in these days of globalization we have moved further in approaching our relationships with people outside of our Christian faith. Through Pope John Paul II our Catholic Church has officially engaged in interfaith dialogues to bring the truth of unity too all of God’s people.
The Passionists serves the Church in this purpose as well. Today we have the wonderful ministries of Fr. Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P. who is the Interfaith Peace Project’s Executive Director. Tom offers friendly and hospitable programs to help participants cope with inherited stereotypes, innocent misunderstandings, embarrassing questions or general knowledge of the many faith traditions of humankind.
The Interfaith Peace Project seeks to strengthen the community’s religious and spiritual life, and encourage spiritual values and ethical principles. They reach out to all religions of the community, and embrace the American tradition of religious diversity that creates a fertile opportunity for dialogue, understanding, cooperation and peace. The intended outcome is to encourage understanding, respect and connection for participants in all our projects, therefore advancing peace. Respect for differences begins with dialogue, promotes understanding and cooperation, and leads to peaceful co-existence.
The Interfaith Peace Project is helping our world find peace in the midst of conflict and division through prayer, study and reflection. In these days we recognize division and conflict with respect to our Catholic/Christian relationship with the Islamic community. Fr. Tom offers the following insights with respect to our approach in having fruitful and much needed dialogue with the members of the Muslim faith and the question of Park51 Islamic Cultural Center.
DIALOGUE WITH MUSLIMS: A reflection by Fr. Tom Bonacci, CP
The events of the past several days and weeks are no less than heartbreaking and alarming. The association of Islam with violence and human insensitivity is both dangerous and insensitive. It is quite important for reasonable people to understand religions as such are abstractions. What we meet in the religious “other” be they Muslim or Christian is not a religion but a “person” of faith, a particular, living human being. We cannot meet one another if we label one another with labels based on fears, stereotypes, and prejudices.
We must realize, in the current situation, it is almost impossible to engage Muslims in dialogue without the great question looming in the background, “Is Islam a religion of violence?” Participants in this dialogue should be aware of what motivates the dialogue. Participants must be open to hearing the other person without defensive or offensive postures.
The “violent verses” found in the Qur’an invite Christians to examine in a fair and honest way the “violent texts” in the Bible. Together participants in dialogue might explore how violent attitudes can corrupt authentic readings and understandings of their respective Scriptures, beliefs, and teachings.
Participants in the dialogue must examine their own hearts to discover whether or not they harbor unfair attitudes, hostilities, or fears. If so, one should engage in educational opportunities, personal spiritual direction, sincere reflection, and honest research before engaging in deeper dialogue.
Finally, Muslims, like peoples of other faith traditions, are human beings worthy of respect whose dignity must be recognized.
This is a tragic moment in our histories as religious peoples. It is also a great opportunity to move forward as the virtues found in our Sacred Writings, the examples found in our great leaders, and the wisdom found in our peoples can contribute to the well-being of all peoples. Muslims and Christians must be aware of their mutual responsibility to foster peace in the world. Each must claim the authenticity of their respective traditions as they serve the family of humankind. These troubled times call for remarkable courage and courageous example so our words of peace may become deeds of justice in the world.
It is my opinion, and I suggest it cautiously, the killing fields must become centers of interfaith justice and peace. We need to stand together as people of faith exemplifying the power of faith as an important catalyst for forging peace.