We thank the Eugene Police — led by Chief Pete Kerns, a Catholic — for arresting a 44-year-old man who allegedly threatened to kill members of the city’s Islamic Center. We cannot try Chad Everett Russell in our pages, but we do demand that anyone proven to commit a hate crime receives firm justice.
No one knows better than Oregon Catholics that we cannot brook aggression or hate based on religion. Less than a century ago, we were the target. The Protestant majority feared us and our faith; the Ku Klux Klan held Oregon’s levers of power and wished to send us Catholics through the trap door.
Anti-Catholic bias still exists in new form, but we have it nowhere near as bad as our Muslim brothers and sisters.
What we need to understand is that Muslim does not equal Islamic fundamentalist terrorist. The people planting bombs and beheading Christians are a Muslim version of the Ku Klux Klan, using violence to fight against progress that frightens them.
What to do? Here are three ideas.
First, we challenge everyday Catholics in Oregon to reach out to Muslim neighbors. Sure, our communities have theological and cultural differences, but we are all Oregonians and we share a faith in God and the heritage of Abraham. Surely, neighboring parishes and mosques can celebrate something together, perhaps a summer barbecue.
Second, we hope leaders in parishes and mosques will expand dialogue into relationship. Regular meetings would help. Joint ventures may emerge. Already, Archbishop Alexander Sample and Wajdi Said of the Muslim Educational Trust earlier this year penned a letter with other religious leaders calling for civil dialogue over rancor.
Third, we Catholics should pray for Muslims regularly. As people of God, we are a minority in Oregon and need each other. Imagine what can happen with mutual reverence and care. Oregon may be the right place to begin a revolution of Christian-Muslim respect.