Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York has issued a sharp rebuke against surging religious hatred in the U.S. amid the Israel-Hamas war.
“In recent days here in America, where for hundreds of years many have sought refuge from religious persecution, we have seen outbreaks of religious hatred that shock the conscience,” Cardinal Dolan, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Religious Liberty, said in a Nov. 1 statement.
After Hamas militants attacked some 22 locations in Israel Oct. 7, killing hundreds and taking over 200 hostages, Israel declared war on Hamas, placing Gaza under siege and pounding the region with airstrikes as Hamas has returned fire. To date, some 1,400 in Israel, including at least 30 U.S. citizens, and — according to Hamas officials — more than 8,300 in Gaza have been killed. The ensuing humanitarian crisis has left the Middle East “on the verge of the abyss,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, as Israel has launched a ground offensive in Gaza.
The war has sparked a rise in both antisemitic and anti-Islamic incidents in several nations, including the U.S.
In an Oct. 25 press release, the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism reported that since Oct. 7, “incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault increased by 388 percent over the same period last year.”
The ADL said it recorded a total of 312 antisemitic incidents in the U.S that occurred between Oct. 7 and 23, with 190 “directly linked to the war in Israel and Gaza.”
Verbal and physical attacks against Jews have taken place across the country, said the ADL.
Among the incidents it cited were assaults of Jewish individuals in Detroit, Indianapolis and New York.
At Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, 21-year-old student Patrick Dai was arrested Oct. 31 and federally charged for his threats to kill and injure the school’s Jewish students by shooting them with a semi-automatic rifle.
Following Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre, the ADL also noted “a nearly 1,000-percent increase” in the daily average of violent messages mentioning Jews and Israel posted to white supremacist and right-wing Telegram channels.
Rachel Sass, antisemitic incidents specialist with the ADL Center on Extremism, said the latest increase in antisemitism also includes instances “not directly related to the conflict,” with both types “on the rise right now.”
“As countless voices celebrate the brutal terrorist attacks of October 7, our Jewish brothers and sisters reasonably fear for their lives,” said Cardinal Dolan in his statement.
Anti-Islamic incidents also have spiked, according to the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.
In an Oct. 25 press release, CAIR said it had received 774 complaints since Oct. 7, a total that “likely (does) not represent all cases nationwide.”
By comparison, CAIR said it had counted just 63 incidents for the entire month of August.
CAIR research and advocacy director Corey Saylor said that “what has to be remembered is that human beings are behind” the statistics, adding that the anti-Muslim attacks CAIR has tracked are “shockingly personal.”
CAIR also has noted “other trends” in anti-Islamic attacks such as “the use of vehicles as weapons, (with) people ramming (war) protestors,” as well as “brandishing or discharging of firearms” and reputational attacks that in some cases have cost those targeted their jobs, Saylor said.
“In the face of such base hatred, we must affirm certain fundamental truths,” said Cardinal Dolan. “Every human life is of equally incalculable worth. Hating your neighbors is a grave sin against God, who created us all in his image and likeness. Violence only begets more violence, not justice.
“May those whose hearts have been gripped by hatred repent, and may people of goodwill stand courageously for peace,” he said.
Wars ‘kill’ the future of children, pope says
VATICAN CITY — The wars being fought in Gaza, Ukraine and other parts of the world are destroying the future of the children who live in those nations, Pope Francis said.
Speaking about the conflict in Palestine and Israel after praying the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square Nov. 5, the pope asked the world to “think of the children” who suffer as a result of war.
For “all the children affected by this war, as well as in Ukraine and in other conflicts: this is how their future is being killed,” he said.
Pope Francis noted that many children are among the hostages taken into Gaza by Hamas during its attack on Israel Oct. 7. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Oct. 30 that more than 200 hostages were being held in Gaza, including 33 children.
“May they return to their families,” the pope said. “May the hostages be freed immediately.”
He asked that “avenues be pursued so that an escalation of the conflict might be absolutely avoided,” and “so that the wounded can be rescued, and help might get to the population of Gaza where the humanitarian situation is extremely serious.” The Gaza Health Ministry estimates that more than 9,000 people have been killed and 32,000 wounded in Israel’s war against Hamas.
“I continue to think about the serious situation in Palestine and in Israel where many, many people have lost their lives,” the pope said. “In God’s name, I beg you to stop: Cease fire!”
Later Nov. 5, Pope Francis spoke by phone with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, the Vatican press office confirmed.
Vatican News noted that Pope Francis also spoke by phone with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Nov. 2, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Oct. 26 and with U.S. President Joe Biden Oct. 22.
— Catholic News Service