Originally issued August 17, 2010.

The following statement was written and delivered by Pax Christi USA Director of Institutional Advancement Ronaldo Cruz, at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Pax Christi USA joined with the Muslim American Society for this press conference.

Pax Christi USA, a Catholic Peace Movement, joins the citizens of New York City and local and national organizations in support of the Cordoba Center, an Islamic mosque and community center proposed for lower Manhattan, near the Ground Zero site.

As the National Catholic Peace Movement, Pax Christi USA believes in the freedom of religion and countering systematic and perpetual deep spiritual and social brokenness. Catholic Social Teaching tells us that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. However attacks on Muslims, and on dark skinned people mistaken for Muslims, started almost immediately after 9/11. This behavior is contrary to our Christian values.

Pax Christi USA refuses to play into the fear promoted by individuals and organizations that promote the xenophobic attitude and behavior that has become common place throughout the country. We believe it is contrary to the honor of the victims who died on September 11, 2001 and to the American principles we have been taught to respect all of our lives.

American Muslims did not kill anyone. It was extremists who claim to represent one of the great religions of the world who attacked us. As we all know, Muslims were among the victims on that horrific day, along with Jews, Christians, and citizens of other countries. However, we are seeing anti-Arab sentiments that are not only tied to New York, but are evident throughout the country.

Pax Christi USA is in solidarity with interfaith organizations committed to constitutional and civil rights for all people of faith. We congratulate President Obama’s affirmation of the right of the Cordoba Initiative of New York City to establish a mosque in lower Manhattan. The Cordoba Initiative has consistently been an advocate of positive and progressive relations between the Muslim and Christian communities in the United States and throughout the world.

Pax Christi USA is concerned that a great deal of the opposition to the proposed project comes from individuals and organizations that are identified as hostile to the legitimate rights and aspirations of the American Muslim community.

Not all families of the victims are opposed to the construction of a mosque near ground zero nor do they have fear or bias. Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a nationwide group founded by family members of those killed on 9/11, stated that “We applaud President Obama for his leadership on this issue. Simply put: we lost our family members on 9/11/2001, but will not lose our nation, too.”

Pax Christi USA agrees with Families for Peaceful Tomorrows’ statement and affirms that the Catholic and Muslim communities of New York and all of the United States can build positive bridges of mutual understanding and collaboration for making our society stronger and more just for all people

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