Gathering for Interfaith Solidarity

Gaston Hall
Georgetown University
December 16, 2015

            Welcome everyone, and thank you all for being here today. It’s an honor to welcome you to Georgetown, and to Gaston Hall. 

            We gather this afternoon—from across our city…across faith traditions—in a spirit of unity and solidarity with all members of our global family.

            And I wish to offer my deep gratitude to all of the participants in our program—and also to welcome and acknowledge the presence of members of the Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i, Latter-day Saints, and Jain communities who are here with us today.

            These are very difficult days for us—for our nation, for our world.  At this moment—when acts of violence and words of exclusion…when fear, hatred and discrimination…threaten to divide us—we are called to solidarity.  We are called to acknowledge our interdependence. We are called to bring the resources of our faiths into engagement with this historical moment.

            Much of what our faith traditions share is an invitation…a calling…a responsibility to work for justice, to serve our communities, to contribute to the common good.

            What we share—across our traditions—is what is needed most at this moment.

            There is an urgency in this moment. There is no more appropriate time for us to stand together in solidarity with one another…no greater purpose than for us to come together to show our commitment to peace and to understanding.

            This coming together is the story of our nation…of who we are, of what we would expect of ourselves.

            Professors Robert Putnam and David Campbell have studied the place of religion in the United States, and they describe for us three characteristics of the American story.

            They have found that, as a nation, America is a deeply religious country. We are also a very pluralistic country. Those two characteristics, historically, can be sources for deep discord.

            However—there is a third characteristic of religion in America: we’re an extraordinarily tolerant people.

            We cannot underestimate the unique resources that our faiths, that our diversity, that our tolerance provide us: the values of interior freedom, human dignity, human flourishing, and the common good…values that are integral to solidarity—to, in the words of Saint John Paul II: “a firm and persevering determination to commit [ourselves]…to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all…responsible for all.”1

            This is our work. To build solidarity. To work together for the common good.

            Our gathering today is an opportunity to be witnesses to each other, as we come together—different faiths, different cultures, different backgrounds—to harness a spirit of togetherness…to realize the shared resources of our traditions…and to be united in them, united in our respect, in our compassion, and in our service to our world.

            I wish to offer my deep gratitude to all of you, for your presence here today, and for contributing your voice to this vision for greater solidarity, understanding, and peace. Thank you all for being here.

[1] John Paul II, Sollicitudo rei socialis, sec. 38.