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March 20, 2019

Mission: Building Solidarity Across Differences

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

(2 Timothy 1:7)

Our hearts are broken for our brothers and sisters in Christchurch, and all the places where sorrow and suffering exists. This is a crucial time for people of faith and all people of goodwill throughout the world. We are witnesses of a disturbing worldwide rise in attitudes, expressions, and violence motivated by hate.

Our world is suffering from fear of neighbor. The Gospel demands our response! Our founder, Saint John Baptist de La Salle, shared with his teachers so long ago a prayer that today still resonates–“God of love, set me aflame with love for you and for my neighbor.”

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must stand up for the truth that every person is lovingly created by God with human dignity. Doing so includes rejecting xenophobia, Islamophobia, and all other dehumanizing mindsets. We must find creative ways to respond to fear and hate with love. As Catholic educators, we can use our many gifts and resources to build solidarity where there are differences, fostering a Gospel response among the generation of young people entrusted to our care.

On behalf of all my colleagues at Saint Mary’s Press, I wish to share with you impactful ideas for building solidarity that you can implement with the young people in your school or parish.

Gather to Pray

As people of faith, we believe no one should be afraid to gather with others to pray. Praying for and with those who experience persecution for their beliefs is a bold act of solidarity.

 

Gather to Learn

No one is born hating another person. Since negative stereotypes and prejudices are learned, they can be unlearned.

 

Create Interfaith Connections

Interfaith dialogue is a powerful way to build mutual respect and become more informed about the similarities and differences between faith traditions.

 

  • Invite small groups to read and discuss Finding Jesus among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic, a relational and accessible starting place for interfaith dialogue and prayer.
  • Build online interfaith partnerships and dialogue through social media. Follow people and organizations promoting respect and understanding. Share ideas and images that strengthen interfaith solidarity.
  • Consider possibilities for interfaith hospitality by reading The Interfaith Classroom, an article about welcoming people from different faith traditions in Catholic schools.
  • Explore a variety of resources for youth and adults offered by Scarboro Missions, a society of Canadian Catholic priests supporting interfaith respect and understanding. Try their Golden Rule Art Exercise and Lesson Plan

Finally, in solidarity, we are offering FREE access to our popular Understanding Racism eLearning course, an effective interactive 10-day online program for groups of youth or adults.

Essential concepts from the USCCB’s Open Wide Our Hearts (2018) are woven through this learning experience. Understanding Racism offers many opportunities for participants to learn and practice real-life strategies that resist fear and hate by building solidarity. To get access to this course for you and your students contact Jenelle at 800-533-8095.

Thank you for your dedication to the young, for your support of their innate longing for justice and understanding in this world, for your zeal and work for building solidarity across differences with faith, hope, and love. We must act in the face of hatred with the compassion of Christ!

Live, Jesus, in our hearts. Forever!

John M. Vitek

President and CEO