February 1, 2019 — The deadly attack on the Great Mosque of Quebec City on January 29, 2017 still haunts the minds of many Quebecers and Canadians. It provided an opportunity for collective reflection on the spiral of hatred and Islamophobic violence. And also to look for ways out of this spiral of intolerance. For several decades, Jesuit Apostolates – including the Centre justice et foi – have sought to contribute to mutual understanding through intercultural and interreligious dialogue.
Centre justice et foi and the fight against Islamophobia
Last week, two ceremonies were held to honour the memory of the victims of the attack on the Great Mosque of Quebec City, the first in Montreal, at McGill University’s Redpath Library, and the second at Laval University’s Pavillon Alphonse-Desjardins. The Centre justice et foi (CJF) contributed modestly but no less in solidarity to these two ceremonies. First through its photographic exhibition QuébécoisEs, musulmanEs, et après?, which was exhibited on the margins of these memorial ceremonies. Then by the presence of Mouloud Idir, in charge of the Living Together sector, at the Montreal commemoration, where he challenged the political class about the climate of Islamophobia that continues to prevail in society.
For several years now, the CJF has been fighting intolerance and Islamophobia, sometimes through positions on this subject, sometimes through meetings and public activities promoting intercultural and interreligious dialogue. The exhibition QuébécoisEs, musulmanEs, et après? is a good example. This photographic exhibition focuses on the professional, spiritual and daily life of our fellow citizens of the Muslim faith, in order to defuse the clichés and stereotypes associated with these people and their religion. In short, to present Muslims from here in their simplicity, diversity and complexity, giving them back their full human depth.
The Centre justice et foi also contributes to intercultural dialogue through its tour on Montreal’s Muslim diversity. At the end of a guided and animated tour allowing participants to discover certain places associated with the Muslim presence in Montreal, the public is invited to hear the life stories of men and women of the Muslim faith. This helps to deconstruct many clichés and stereotypes about Muslims.
The CJF also embodies in its own way the spirituality of the encounter of which Pope Francis was the proponent. In particular through the feminist group Maria’M. Beyond the sometimes impassable theological differences, there is the possibility of a truly transcendent friendship, that is, one that is able to rise above it in order to focus on what brings these Christian and Muslim women together. The fight against sexism and patriarchy, for example.
The Society of Jesus and interreligious dialogue
Interreligious dialogue has a very long history in the life of the Society of Jesus. The Jesuits distinguished themselves from some of their missionary confreres by a sometimes radical practice of the inculturation of Christianity. And by a desire to better understand the culture and religious universe of the peoples they were (certainly) trying to evangelize.
This tradition of inculturation has also been combined with a desire to break with the contemptuous and intolerant attitude of the Church of yesteryear toward non-Catholic and non-Christian religious traditions, particularly Jews, and even more so in the aftermath of the Shoah. The time of the Second Vatican Council was essential in rejecting these contemptuous and deadly attitudes. In addition to Pope John XXIII’s personal commitment to the delicate issue of the struggle against Catholic anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism, it is worth noting the decisive role of two Jesuits in the elaboration of the Vatican II Declaration Nostra Aetate: Cardinal Augustin Bea, SJ and theologian John Courtney Murray, SJ. To which can also be added the Canadian theologian Gregory Baum, who, although not a Jesuit, played a key role in the elaboration of this founding text. As a promoter of Jewish-Christian dialogue in Canada, our late companion Stéphane Valiquette is also an illustrious representative of this tradition of interreligious dialogue. Just like the Italian Jesuit Paolo dall’Oglio, promoter of Islamic-Christian dialogue and founder of the monastery of Mar Moussa in Syria.