Proponents of Word Trade Center Mosque Should Follow the Example of the Auschwitz Nuns
Bill McGurn writes in today's Wall Street Journal:
With every passing day, the dispute over the planned Islamic Center near Ground Zero grows more acrimonious. These feelings will probably only get worse today, when the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission is expected to remove another hurdle by ruling against landmark status for the undistinguished old building the center will replace.My Comments:
So maybe it's time to look beyond the lawyers and landmark preservation commissions and regulatory agencies. When we do, it will be hard to find a better example than the grace and wisdom Pope John Paul II exhibited during a similar clash involving another hallowed site on whose grounds innocents were also murdered: Auschwitz.
In the 1980s, Carmelite nuns moved into an abandoned building on the edge of the former Nazi death camp to pray for the souls taken there. As with the dispute over the mosque near Ground Zero, the convent's presence escalated into a clash not only between different faiths but between competing historical narratives. As with today's clash too, it seemed intractable until the Polish pope stepped in.
For Jews, Auschwitz is a symbol of the Shoah, and the presence of a convent looked like an effort to Christianize a place of Jewish suffering. Suspicions were further aroused by a fundraising brochure from an outside Catholic group, which referred to the convent as a "guarantee of the conversion of strayed brothers." The protests mounted over the course of several years and various interfaith agreements, and pointed to the real strains that remained between Poles and Jews over a shared history with very different perspectives.
Many Catholics, not just in Poland, could not understand how nuns begging God's forgiveness and praying for the souls of the departed could possibly offend anyone. There was also a nationalist element. Many members of the Polish resistance had also been murdered at Auschwitz. And again like our present controversy at Ground Zero, intemperate reactions and statements from both sides only inflamed passions.
[Read the whole thing]
I've been wondering since this controversy over the WTC mosque began whether there was a Shoah-related example of the people involved acting with special sensitivity.
The difference, of course, is that the Auschwitz nuns were not the least bit interested in triumphalism by their presence at the site of profound suffering and murderous inhumanity and the Polish-born Pope was especially attuned and sensitive to Jewish concerns over appropriately memorializing the Holocaust.