“We pray for the Sikh community.”
This message of support and compassion graced the marquis of the Varsity Theatre for several weeks after the tragic incident at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wis. The tragedy touched the Marquette community in multiple and personal ways. The father of two alumni who was founder and head of the temple was killed. Current students and their families are members at the Temple, and some witnessed the terrible event.
Within hours of the event, President Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., posted a prayer for the Sikh community on the university homepage, and in a letter to the Marquette community, he wrote: “It is of paramount importance that we live this civility each day in a spirit of respect and understanding with all of our sisters and brothers.”
The Sikh faith, which is based on the tenets of truth, equality, freedom, justice and karma, was founded in northern India a century before St. Ignatius sent St. Francis Xavier to Goa in southern India, where, in 1542, he started one of the first Jesuit schools. Vast India is the site of the convergence of many faiths.
Over time, many Jesuits have witnessed the upheaval and unrest created through misunderstandings and ignorance about the wonder and beauty of the many faith traditions though which God has been revealed in time and history. At the 1995 international gathering of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits built on the documents of Vatican II on ecumenism and interfaith dialogue and reinvigorated a commitment to engage in inter- religious dialogue in all their ministries. In a key document from their deliberations, “Our Mission and Interreligious Dialogue,” they wrote: “General Congregation 34 encourages Jesuits to move beyond prejudice and bias, be it historical, cultural, social or theological, in order to cooperate wholeheartedly with all men and women of good will in promoting peace, justice, harmony, human rights and respect for all of God’s creation. This is to be done especially through dialogue with those inspired by religious commitment or who share a sense of transcendence that opens them to universal values.”
As an academic community, we continue to pursue the mission of understanding and care that lies at the heart of our Jesuit mission. As we till the ground of our own faith on a daily basis, we recall Jesuits during five centuries who have educated and ministered side by side and in intersection with many faith-filled people from a variety of traditions around the world, learning from, appreciating and drawing wisdom from the interaction. Through reflection on our own personal experiences, we engage in serious questions about our attitudes, beliefs and actions, knowing that the wisdom of St. Ignatius invites us to use profound moments of desolation to deepen our commitment to living lives of love.
Dr. Susan Mountin, Jour ’71, Grad ’94, director of Manresa for Faculty, helps us till the soil of faith in a quarterly column on Ignatian values.