This article was written by Peter Dziedzic, a sophomore at DePaul, who is pursuing a double major in Religious Studies and English. Peter is the co-President of DePaul Interfaith and member of the Executive Committee of the Better Together Campaign at DePaul University. Follow Peter on Twitter.
Last month, an act of religious intolerance and spiritual ignorance scarred the progress that had been made in interfaith relations across this nation and across the world. Terry Jones, the Florida pastor condemned for making a push to establish “Burn a Koran Day” on the 9th anniversary of 9/11 last year, went ahead as planned and burned a Qur’an, offering a message that is thrown only in dark ages and wearisome times – we will not tolerate that which we do not know, and we will not welcome those who are not like us.
And yet, like all other great events in history, it will fall on us – the discerning citizens, the passionate youth, the discerning students of the academy and the world – to either answer or condemn the call to hate. As a DePaul student, I cannot say that the actions of this pastor reflect the honest norm of spiritually-inclined and aware individuals. I do not see Qur’ans burned or Torahs torn on a daily basis. Rather, I see a campus that is religiously diverse yet rallied around the call for a better world. DePaul’s religious diversity is transformed into a mosaic of insight and wisdom, not a fen of violence or segregation.
But sadly, the diversity and acceptance of the DePaul community is not universal.
It falls on each and every one of us, as members of this unique community, to condemn acts such as those pursued by Terry Jones. We must remember that, unfortunately, the terrifying acts of rouge extremists capture headlines and newsfeeds more often then the honest and toilsome work of the peacemakers and bridge-builders of humanity. We must not forget that, while our fight for understanding and tolerance may not capture the headlines, it does radically affect the lives of our neighbors and our community, and this is a satisfaction that should be inherent in our hearts and ingrained in our minds as conscious Vincentians.
As responsible as we are for promoting tolerance and understanding in our world, we are also responsible for our own self-cultivation. We must not only foster a daily reality and sustainable culture of tolerance, education and awareness, but we must also strive to continually educate ourselves, to change our worldviews and enhance our understanding of our life and the global context that shapes us as individuals and as a community.
This event, as tragic as it is, should be taken as a chapter of a new book, a segue into a sequel much greater than our goals and ourselves and much more satisfying than the recent chapters of our history that have been written in blood, published in our hearts and minds and stories, and immolated by our fears and insecurities. We must not be the generation that allows the chapter to burn yet again, but rather, to let it stand for what it is, and let it transform our lives and inspire us to continually strive for the creation of a world much greater than our own.