How do different religious traditions practice faith and justice in society? That was the question we asked in our first Community Meeting of 2019 with leaders from the Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths. With a room of more than 200 people and viewers from across the country streaming the conversation online, Father Gyves began the discussion with the thought that “faith is more than dogmatic belief – it is something that has to be lived in society.”

The panel was moderated by Reverend J. Bryan Hehir, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and Secretary for Health and Social Services for the Archdiocese of Boston, and panelists included:

  • Barry Schrage, Brandeis University Professor of the Practice in the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program;
  • Rev. June R. Davis Cooper, Old South Church Theologian and Executive Director of City Mission Boston; and
  • Imam Taha Hassane, Director of the Islamic Center of San Diego.

Each panelist was invited to discuss how their religious traditions work towards a more just society for all God’s people. June Cooper began with the protestant perspective, speaking to the imperative that God’s love is all encompassing, and we have a communal responsibility to love everyone, even those we don’t know.

Speaking to Islamic traditions, Imam Hassane explained injustice as one of the worst forms of evil, that “justice should not be predicated to a specific group of people, religious belief, race, or faith – it should be done with each and every creation of God.”

Barry Schrage spoke to the Jewish tradition of helping strangers, referring to the story of Abraham who didn’t preach the way of the Lord but showed the way by helping strangers, even in his own times of pain.

Reverend Hehir described the Catholic faith as “grounded in biblical imperative and the state of the world,” speaking to respect for dignity of the human person. He talked about the complications of our world today and what it means to do justice in times of peril and in the face of imperfection.

Attendees were prompted to converse with those seated at their table about how the panelists’ works have impacted their thinking. This resulted in questions for the panelists that sparked discussions about the role of the individual versus the collective, how to balance creating a just world with personal and worldly imperfections, and the meaning of equality and the common good in the different traditions.

The panelists spoke to the importance of doing justice as a core part of faith. Schrage said, “God is not satisfied with prayers, God is demanding justice.”

Reverend Cooper told a story of collecting socks for the homeless, pointing out that justice is not only helping those in immediate need but creating a more just society as a whole: “People are always going to need the socks, but go up stream a little bit and figure out what the policies are that have made people need those socks.”

While each religion differs in their beliefs and traditions, one common theme that was reinforced throughout the evening was the importance of loving and serving others – regardless of faith, gender, race, or culture – in the pursuit of social justice.