JCU Interfaith Initiative and U.S. Embassy to the Holy See Present Panel Discussion: "Nostra Aetate 50 Years On"
On Thursday, October 29th, the John Cabot Interfaith Initiative cohosted a panel discussion with the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See on “Nostra Aetate 50 Years On: The Continued Importance of Interreligious Engagement in Combating Intolerance.”
U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Ira Forman, and Acting U.S. Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Arsalan Suleman, travelled to Rome for the anniversary remembrances of Nostra Aetate led by Pope Francis this week, and took part in the panel. The Nostra Aetate document represented a landmark shift in the Catholic Church’s relationship with both Judaism and Islam and denounced anti-Semitism in strong and broad terms.
Before a packed Aula Magna hall, Forman described the complex contours of anti-Semitism today and gave a portrait of its various faces in France, Hungary and Turkey. He shared what the United States is doing through his office to combat anti-Semitism and talked about the importance of interreligious dialogue and the relationship between the United States, Jewish communities and the Catholic Church to that end. Forman emphasized the powerful and necessary role that religious leaders and religious communities play in forming a civil society that independently speaks out against religious discrimination.
Suleman, who began with a touching personal story in which he described himself as a Muslim who tried to live out Jesuit values of service towards others, highlighted the new work his office has done to reach out to Muslim leaders and bring together Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim leaders together to speak out against the discrimination of religious minorities. He also touched upon the problem of Islamophobia, in both Europe and the United States. Although the tensions inherent in simultaneously addressing global manifestations of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism were evident throughout the public conversation that followed the panel, Suleman and Forman argued that both were equal forms of religious discrimination which presented a human rights problem for everyone. In linking anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and in the spirit of Nostra Aetate, the Envoys powerfully challenged Catholic leaders to steadfastly speak out against anti-Semitism, Jewish leaders to speak out against Islamophobia, and Muslim leaders to speak out against Christian persecution.
Fr. Joseph Sievers, an eminent professor of Jewish history at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, began the panel with remarks on the theological importance of Nostra Aetate as a Church document and situated the Catholic Church’s relationship to Judaism and Islam in a historical perspective. The discussion was moderated by Rabbi Jack Bemporad, Director of the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue.