Hosted by the Raindrop Turkish House in San Antonio, which several St. Philip’s parishioners recently visited, the annual dinner is held in hopes of “building mutual understanding, respect and cooperation among people of diverse faiths and cultures by creating opportunities for direct communication and meaningful shared experiences.”
I am proud that our very own Fr. Mike gave a beautiful invocation, as did Rabbi Sam Stahl of Temple Beth-El; Father Victor Valdez, Rector at San Fernando Cathedral; Beytullah Colak, Imam and Director of the San Antonio Chapter of the Islamic Institute; and Dr. GP Singh of the Sikh Community of San Antonio.
The Reverend Dirk Ficca gave the keynote address entitled “Antidote to Extremism.” Rev. Ficca, a Presbyterian minister, is currently the international director for the Twin-Cities Social Cohesion Initiative in Minneapolis-St. Paul and has been involved for nearly 20 years in promoting inter-religious dialogue at gatherings around the globe.
As recent examples of powerful antidotes to extremism, Rev. Ficca cited Nadine Collier, the daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance, one of the hate-crime victims of Dylann Roof at the historic African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. “I forgive you,” she told Roof. “You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.”
Closer to home, Rev. Ficca noted the response to the recent burning of the Victoria Islamic Center mosque. The morning following the fire, Jewish community members walked into the home of one of the mosque’s co-founders and said, “Here is a key to our synagogue.” Christian groups also offered their assistance and a “Go-Fund-Me” page has to date raised over $1.5 million for the construction of a new mosque.
The common thread I heard throughout Rev. Ficca’s address was an admonition to do the hard work of recognizing the humanity in everyone. Christ tells us the same thing in responding to a question about which is the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And the second is like unto it: Love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
It is hard work when our “neighbors” are from different ethnicities, when we hold different religious beliefs, or when we take different positions on social and political issues of the day. But that is the work God has given us to do. I came home from San Antonio Tuesday night with renewed comfort and hope knowing that I have Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and Christian brothers and sisters who are engaged in the same work.
Thanks be to God.
- Willie Edwards