PROSPECT HEIGHTS — With acts of religious hatred on the rise in the U.S. since the Hamas attacks on Israel in early October, New York’s cardinal, who also leads a U.S. bishops’ committee on religious liberty, has said that such instances “shock the conscience.”
“In recent days here in America, where for hundreds of years many have sought refuge from religious persecution, we have seen outbreaks of religious hatred that shock the conscience,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan said in a Nov. 1 statement.
In particular, Cardinal Dolan cited an instance from Oct. 14, when a man named Joseph Czuba of Plainfield, Illinois, who is Catholic, reportedly stabbed a Palestinian boy and his mother because they were Muslim. The boy, 6-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume, died from the attack.
Czuba, 71, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder, two counts of aggravated battery, and two counts of hate crime, and pleaded not guilty in an Oct. 30 arraignment. Prosecutors assert that Czuba stabbed the 6-year-old 26 times and his mother, 32-year-old Hanaan Shahin, more than a dozen times.
Cardinal Dolan also denounced voices across the nation who in recent weeks have celebrated Hamas’ attack on Israel, putting Jewish people in a state of fear for their safety.
“Nothing could be more antithetical to our Church’s teachings than this man’s alleged crime,” Cardinal Dolan said of Czuba’s attack. “And as countless voices celebrate the brutal terrorist attacks of Oct. 7, our Jewish brothers and sisters reasonably fear for their lives.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told a Senate committee earlier this week that instances of religious attacks are on the rise. Mayorkas told the committee that “in the days and weeks since [the Hamas attack], we have responded to an increase in threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab American communities and institutions across our country.”
Wray, meanwhile, highlighted an instance in Houston where a man was taken into federal custody after studying how to build bombs and posting online about his support for killing Jews, as well as Czuba’s attack in Plainfield.
“Here in the United States, our most immediate concern is that violent extremists — individuals or small groups — will draw inspiration from the events in the Middle East to carry out attacks against Americans going about their daily lives,” Wray said. “That includes not just homegrown violent extremists inspired by a foreign terrorist organization, but also domestic violent extremists targeting Jewish or Muslim communities.”
Cardinal Dolan, in his statement, touted the importance of affirming the value of every human life.
“In the face of such base hatred, we must affirm certain fundamental truths,” he said. “Every human life is of equally incalculable worth. Hating your neighbors is a grave sin against God, who created us all in his image and likeness.
“Violence only begets more violence, not justice,” Cardinal Dolan added. “May those whose hearts have been gripped by hatred repent, and may people of good will stand courageously for peace.”