Biden, not on program, wows crowd at Georgetown interfaith peace forum

IMAGE: CNS photo/Georgetown University

By Mark Pattison

(CNS) — Even though he wasn’t on the program, Vice President Joe Biden stole
the show at a Georgetown University program promoting peace in wake of
terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.

Brothers, a Georgetown freshman, had just given a moving reflection about being
Muslim and her hijab-wearing mother feeling as if she had “a target on her
back” in the month following the terror attacks.

talked about how Republican presidential aspirant Donald Trump had suggested
that Muslims wear a badge to identify them to others. She added how she wanted
to spare her mother the stress that comes with wearing the hijab. Her mother’s
response: “If they’re talking about Muslims wearing a badge, I already
have a badge. My hijab is my badge.”

Brothers was receiving applause after her remarks, Biden walked up onto the
stage and greeted some of the other participants at the Dec. 16 forum, billed
as “Interfaith Gathering for Solidarity, Understanding and Peace,”
but gave Brothers a warm embrace.

to the microphone, he said, “My name’s Joe Biden, and I align myself with
the words of this courageous young woman.”

using only index cards as reference points, he spoke for nearly as long as the
other speakers combined. Among those speakers was Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of
Washington, who was quoted by Biden at one point during his remarks.

immigrants who came “in waves” to the United States, Biden said, told
themselves, “We don’t know the language. We’re not sure if they want us,
but let’s go.”

immigrants, Biden added, had “the greatest fortitude, the greatest
courage, the greatest sense of optimism.”

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, also attended the event but did not

Wuerl, in his remarks, reflected on the parable of the good Samaritan, which
was read as part of the gathering.

While “e pluribus unum” —
out of many, one — embodies the American idea in a legal framework, he said,
when looking at the nation “through the eyes of faith,” Cardinal Wuerl
said, it is incumbent for each person who answer the question, “Who is my

are part of one great human family,” Cardinal Wuerl added.

Talib M. Shareef, president of the Nation’s Mosque, Masjid Muhammad, in Washington said that
when God created Adam, the first man, “Adam’s own identity was not a
racial identity. His identity was not a national identity. His identity was not
an ethnic identity. The identity was human.” From that, the imam added,
“that has to be the most important identity” when governing
relationships with all other people.

idea of Genesis,” the first book of the Bible, “is that we are
created in the image of God,” said Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, senior rabbi of
the Washington Hebrew Congregation.

acknowledged how some have used their faith’s sacred scriptures to justify
violence. But, he said, “if it can be used to teach hate, it can also be
used to teach love.”

gathering was the idea of Georgetown’s president. John DeGioia, who declared his
intent to sponsor a forum exactly one week after the San Bernardino shootings.
The event was held exactly one week after his announcement, as Christian, Jewish, Muslim and
Sikh clergy quickly committed to participating.

had declared beforehand, “We shouldn’t let this moment go without an
expression of solidarity by the university,” said John Carr, director of Georgetown’s
Initiative on Catholic Social Thought & Public Life, before the event began.
“Look at the turnout. You can see it’s the A-team,” he added,
referring to the assembled clergy.

the quick turnaround time, a 500-seat auditorium on the Georgetown campus was
nearly filled, even though students — a reliable source of bodies for many a
school’s events — had been dismissed the week prior after final exams.

At the
gathering, DeGioia remarked on how the event was imbued with “a spirit of
unity and solidarity with all members of the global family.” He said such
a gathering was needed to enhance “the common good,” adding that it
was necessary for it to be a sign “of where we are” and “what we
would expect of ourselves.”

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Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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