The Golden Rule seems relatively simple to apply. But it can be a real challenge, when we view others as “different” from us.
On February 21, our newly formed committee on racial justice hosted a screening of the PBS documentary Sisters of Selma, which highlighted and reminded us of the work that women religious have done to model the Golden Rule, without bias. The film tells the little known story of Catholic nuns who answered the call of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to come to Selma in 1965 to protest the violent suppression of African-American voters.
It was a time of change in American legislation and in the Catholic Church (mandated by Vatican II). It was a time when racism reared its ugly head high. It was a time when it would have been easier to stay home than stand with the oppressed.
But these women, armed with the strength to carry on the work of peace and justice, the courage to be nonviolent and the love to embrace all of humanity, chose to stand and bear witness to the Golden Rule – a rule that requires equal treatment and fairness to be applied to all.
Like our dear sisters, we are called to fulfill the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. To do that, we must be able to embrace one humanity, in all of its glorious diversity.
Racism allows us to see others as different because of the color of their skin. It happens when people feel or believe it is okay to treat others badly because they are different from us. It prevents us from practicing the Golden Rule and fulfilling the commandments to love the Lord and love our neighbors.
The women seen in Sisters of Selma are examples of how it is done. They are an inspiration to me. I acknowledge and honor their sacrifice and the sacrifices of all women religious who have stood in the gap and worked to bring justice to the marginalized. I pray that we can all, in our own way, demonstrate the love of God in our daily lives.
The Racial Justice Committee is devoted to building bridges of understanding and to helping nurture relationships that are based on reciprocal respect for the rights and interests of all people. We are confronting racism with prayer and conversation. We invite you to join us at the Akron Motherhouse for our next two dialogues with Sister Juanita Shealey, CSJ, at 3 p.m. on March 13 and with Vanessa Griffin Campbell, director of the Cleveland Diocese’s Office of African-American Ministry at 3pm on April 10.
Until then, I would like to share this prayer from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.:
O God, we thank you for the fact that you have inspired men and women in all nations and in all cultures. We call you different names: some call you Allah; some call you Elohim; some call you Jehovah; some call you Brahma; some call you the Unmoved Mover. But we know that these are all names for one and the same God. Grant that we will follow you and become so committed to your way and your kingdom that we will be able to establish in our lives and in this world a brother and sisterhood, that we will be able to establish here a kingdom of understanding, where men and women will live together as brothers and sisters and respect the dignity and worth of every human being. In the name and spirit of Jesus. Amen.
Note: For the prayer/program to use with Sisters of Selma.