January 11, 2016

I read Father Ron Rolheiser's article's on Christian-Muslim dialogue on violence (WCR, Dec. 7). I was impressed with its overall message, as it appears to me that there is tremendous anti-Muslim prejudice in our society.

It is difficult to listen to rants from people (including practising Christians and Catholics) blaming the very people who have been displaced by war by extreme Islamists.

I also read Father Stefano Penna's letter (Dec. 21) taking issue with several points in Rolheiser's article. Not being a theologian, I find it difficult to refute Penna's arguments.

However, the letter left me disturbed and confused. What is the letter's message to the reader? I found the arguments ethereal and perhaps missing the essence of what Rolheiser wrote.

Essentially, Rolheiser's message was that Muslims are the victims of extremist Islamists. This message needs to be talked about whenever possible to dispel the half-truths, over-the-top alarmist warnings and other prejudicial actions.

Of course, Hitler did not speak and act on behalf of the Catholic or any Christian church. My understanding of Rolheiser's reference was that Hitler emerged from mostly a Christian society, albeit however dysfunctional.

As well, a scrutiny of the "Inquisition centuries" shows how violent the Catholic Church and some other Christian churches were in their quest to torture and punish people accused of heresy.

The point of this reference to the Inquisition in Rolheiser's article was that any religion or group has the capacity for violence if extremists take over. I have not read the full Qur'an but wish to do so in the future. I have attempted to do so in the past, and it is a difficult read.

I was struck, however, by the many references requiring the believer to look after the poor, widows, etc. Passages referring to retribution for wrongdoing often ended with statements to be kind, merciful and righteous.

Some even instructed the follower of Islam to cooperate with Jews and Christians.

We live in a difficult and challenging time. It is a time where understanding and compassion should rule. It is also a time when we are reminded of our biblical tradition of social justice.

Jerry Archibald