Interfaith Conference: Mercy without Boundaries
JERUSALEM – In the framework of the Jubilee of Mercy, Bishop William Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar in Jerusalem, chaired a colloquium entitled “Mercy without boundaries” on Thursday March 10, 2016, where religious representatives gave a presentation about God’s Mercy, each in his own religion.
The event, themed “Mercy without boundaries, Celebrating Divine Mercy in Judaism, Christianity and Islam”, was organized by the Salesian Pontifical University in Jerusalem and was chaired by Most Rev. William Shomali. Three religious representatives were invited to talk about God’s Mercy in their religions.
In his opening remarks, Bishop Shomali quoted Pope Francis on the subject of Mercy. In Misericodia Vultus the Holy Father affirms that the three religions recognize that mercy is one of God’s most important attributes. “There is an aspect of mercy that goes beyond the confines of the Church. It relates us to Judaism and Islam, both of which consider mercy to be one of God’s most important attributes.” The Pope also accentuates the importance of mercy to “drive out every form of violence and discrimination”, a point that Bishop Shomali found pertinent to the region of the Middle East and the Holy Land, where violence and hatred have overpowered compassion and mercy.
Then the Patriarchal Vicar proceeded to talk about the challenges that face people of faith. He emphasized on the need to reconcile mercy with justice, pointing out that to a human perspective they seem to oppose. “Looking with our human eyes, it is difficult to reconcile the idea of God as most merciful and most just.”
Another challenge lies in teaching young people to have mercy towards others. “We know that education has a crucial role in fostering either peace or hatred, mercy or retaliation. On a positive level, religions offer many shared values that should be explored and deepened”. He continued “we need to remove from the curriculum of our schools, whatever hurts the image of the other and contributes to his rejection and exclusion. Rather, we need to create a new curriculum where learning these shared values becomes mandatory”.
Invited to speak at the event are Qadi Iyad Zahalka, a judge at Shari’a Court in Jerusalem; Rabbi David Rosen, the International Director of Interreligious affairs of the American Jewish Association and Rev. Dr. Francesco G. Voltaggio, Rector of the Redemptoris Mater Seminary. Speaking of God’s mercy in Islam Qadi Iyad Zahalka emphasized that Mercy is the first name Islam attributes to Allah. He further said that mercy is an act that human beings are called to use to steer their relationships, with God and with each other, towards love. Rabbi Rosen then continued to highlight that God’s mercy towards His people always wins over His anger towards them while Rev. Voltaggio talked about how God’s mercy took the face of Jesus Christ.
After each presentation a question and answer session was held. The colloquium was concluded with a panel discussion and a presentation of reports.