Pop quiz. What institution “regards with esteem” the Muslim faith?
The Catholic Church. In 1965, Pope John Paul VI affirmed this in the Vatican II document on the relation of the church to non-Christian religions, “Nostra Aetate.” Like Catholics, Muslims “adore the one God” and also honor Mary — “at times they even call on her with devotion,” writes the pope. And “they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.”
Sadly, a report released by a Georgetown University research group last fall reveals the faithful are shockingly ignorant of Islam and of Muslims (“Islam” is a noun used for the religion; “Muslim” should be used to describe people who practice Islam).
The report found nearly half of Catholics can’t name any similarities between Catholicism and Islam. Three in 10 Catholics have unfavorable views of Muslims, and Catholics are less likely than the general American public to know a Muslim personally.
One finding, however, hit me especially hard: Catholics who read Catholic media have a worse view of Islam than those who read secular news.
Why? One reason is that “half of the time ‘Islamic’ was used in Catholic articles, it was in reference to the Islamic State terrorist group,” said Jordan Denari Duffner, the study’s author, during a recent webinar for Catholic journalists and communicators.
We in Catholic media are not doing a good job highlighting the vast majority of Muslims who live with faith, peace and integrity — as we strive to do. Those stories far outnumber acts of extremists, and it is sloppy journalism to have lopsided coverage. Yes, violence is newsworthy, but our mission as Catholic journalists is not simply to report on breaking news but also to draw people closer to God and our brothers and sisters — all of them.
Expect more Catholic Sentinel stories on Catholic/Muslim co-existence and friendship in the months to come.