A few of you -- especially the hordes of you who memorize everything I write -- may remember my National Catholic Reporter column from June 2010 in which I described the first "Goldziher Prize." It was named after a Jewish scholar of Islam and given by a Catholic school (Merrimack College) to a rabbi.
Well, please know that the awarding of this prize has not stopped with the first recipient. Just this week, the second Goldziher Prize was given to on Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky (pictured here) of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City for his work in advancing Jewish-Muslim dialogue.
The website to which I've linked you on Visotzky's name describes some of his interfaith work that led to his receiving the award. Among other things, it says:
Dr. Visotzky is involved in interreligious engagement internationally, in capitals such as Washington; Warsaw; Rome; Cairo; Doha, Qatar (where he was in the first group of Jews invited to interfaith dialogue by the Emir); and Madrid, Spain (where he was in the first group of Jews invited by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia). In May 2012, Dr. Visotzky is invited to Muskat, Oman, as part of the first U.S.-Pakistan Interreligious Consortium. He is the winner of the 2012 Goldziher Prize, awarded biennially by Merrimack College for work in Jewish-Muslim relations. Dr. Visotzky is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
I tell you all this as a reminder that although this kind of work and the awards it reaps are valuable, much more needs to be done to encourage inter-religious understanding.
I hope you'll figure out a way this week to start to learn something new about a faith different from your own or engage in a respectiful conversation with someone of a different tradition. It's the only way to avoid the ignorance that breeds prejudice, which in turn breeds hatred and even violence. And it's the only way to enjoy the many benefits of a broad religious understanding.
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STOKING ANTI-MUSLIM HATRED
In contrast to the good work being done by Rabbi Visotzky (see above), Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, who is based in the Vatican and is president of its Council for Justice and Peace, caused a huge stir the other day among other church leaders by screening a misleading and scare-tactic video about Muslims taking over Europe. The Reuters piece to which I've linked you will describe the video posted on YouTube, "Muslim Demographics," which I've watched but which I've chosen not to give you a link to. I don't want to be guilty of spreading hateful propaganda. You can hunt for it yourself if you want to see it. Reuters reported that many cardinals and bishops were distressed that Turkson showed the video, though it's unclear whether they will move in some way to discipline him. The Catholic Church has created various good venues for discussing interfaith relations in peaceful, rational and accurate ways. Turkson's choice to show the video was a slap in the face to such efforts and should be condemned by the pope and others in charge at the Vatican. For additional coverage of this matter, the National Catholic Reporter story by John L. Allen Jr. is here.
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.