Posted by: Titus Presler | August 24, 2010

New York bishop offers support to planned Manhattan Islamic center

Mark Sisk, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, today issued a statement supporting the plans for the now controversial Islamic community center and mosque planned for lower Manhattan and endorsing the efforts of those seeking to resolve the situation.  It is an excellent letter that deserves wider circulation than the members of the Diocese of New York, to whom it is primarily addressed, so I reproduce it here:

August 24, 2010

Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Diocese of New York

I am writing to tell you that I wholeheartedly join other religious and civic leaders in calling on all parties involved in the dispute over the planned lower Manhattan Islamic community center and mosque to convert a situation that has sadly become ever more divisive into, as Archbishop Timothy Dolan recently stated, “an opportunity for a civil, rational, loving, respectful discussion.”

The plan to build this center is, without doubt, an emotionally highly-charged issue. But as a nation with tolerance and religious freedom at its very foundation, we must not let our emotions lead us into the error of persecuting or condemning an entire religion for the sins of its most misguided adherents.

The worldwide Islamic community is no more inclined to violence that any other. Within it, however, a struggle is going on – between the majority who seek to follow a moderate, loving religion and the few who would transform it into an intolerant theocracy intent on persecuting anyone, Muslim or otherwise, with whom they disagree. We should all, as Christians, reach out in friendship and love to the peaceful Islamic majority and do all in our power to build and strengthen bridges between our faiths. We should also all remember that the violence and hateful behavior of the extremist are not confined to any one religion.  Over the centuries we Christians have numbered more than a few among us who have perpetrated unspeakable atrocities in Christ’s name.

I must admit that I also have a more personal connection with this issue. At the Episcopal Diocese of New York we know the leaders of this project, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan. We know that they are loving, gentle people, who epitomize Islamic moderation. We know that as Sufis, they are members of an Islamic sect that teaches a universal belief in man’s relationship to God that is not dissimilar from mystic elements in certain strains of Judaism and Christianity. Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan are, without question, people to whom Christians of good will should reach out with the hand of hospitality and friendship, as they reach out to us. I understand and support their desire to build an Islamic center, intended in part to promote understanding and tolerance among different religions.

For these reasons I applaud the positions taken by Governor Patterson, Mayor Bloomberg and others and look forward to furthering the efforts to resolve this issue. I am convinced, aided and guided by the One God who is creator of all, that people of goodwill can find a solution that will strengthen, rather than divide, the human condition,

The Right Reverend Mark S. Sisk

A particular strength of Sisk’s letter is that he argues from primarily religious grounds, not legal ones.  While acknowledging the important claims of religious liberty, he expresses as a religious leader a primary focus on reconciliation between people of diverse religions.  The fact that the diocese has an already existing relationship with the principal sponsors of the project highlights the importance of developing fruitful relationships across religious lines in all seasons, for in such a season as this one that particular relationship is an important one to strengthen.

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Responses

  1. The Bishop of New York needs to be congratulated for making such a bold and courageous statement. Is the God we serve not the God of all humans? How dare we speak about that God as though he were just one of the patriarchs? If God is for both Christians and Muslims, why should people from the two faiths live as though they were strangers to one another. This is why the oneness of humanity should be insisted upon in this day and age. Our judgment of others should just be that of loving them even more. We Christians risk becoming unChristian in the way we deal with others. Yet our Bible teaches us the truth that even if others were our enemies, those should be the primary beneficiaries of our love and prayers. So where do we get it wrong? Thumps up to the Bishop because he makes Christians of goodwill and right reason so proud!


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