November 17, 2023

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

‘Love of God’ is at the heart of many other people’s faith traditions

Fr. Rick Ginther(This month’s column is written by Deacon John Cord, who is archdiocesan coordinator of Corrections Ministry and also serves at St. Ambrose Parish in Seymour. As I have written before, interreligious dialogue has four components. What Deacon Cord speaks to below is “Dialogue of Action,” a dialogue in which Christians and others collaborate for the integral development and liberation of people.)

A Muslim, a rabbi and a Catholic walk into a restaurant. No, this is not a joke. It really happened to me recently.

I met Rabbi Aaron Speigel at a Marion County re-entry coalition meeting. There were about 50 clergy from across central Indiana in attendance.

The room was quiet as we all took our turn to introduce ourselves. But when Rabbi Speigel stood, people started to clap and cheer before he even opened his mouth.

After the meeting, I chatted with him for several minutes.

Rabbi Speigel is the director of the Greater Indiana Multifaith Alliance (GIMA). He invited me to meet with him in Indianapolis at the Illinois Street Food Emporium.

We met at an outdoor table, and after we talked for a bit, we were joined by Hiba Alami, a leader in the Muslim Women Giving 100 group. She is on the board of GIMA.

We never talked about the major issues in Israel and Gaza. We focused on GIMA and how they work with the Indiana Catholic Conference and have a relationship with the archdiocese.

One of Rabbi Speigel’s passions, and thus GIMA’s focus, is on housing rights for low-income people in Indianapolis and central Indiana. They are studying the causes of the extremely high rate of evictions.

Indiana is among the top five states for evictions. We also happen to be among the top five states of out-of-state, large-corporation-owned housing units.

Our state does not have laws regulating out-of-state housing ownership. We also have very lax laws on eviction without notice.

Housing corporations have created a business model of evicting people for profit. When they accept a renter, they charge a security deposit and the first and last month’s rent. After several months of renting, they find a reason to evict the tenant. The reasons can be very mundane, such as they parked in the wrong spot, or called maintenance too many times for a broken appliance.

They take the person to court and get them evicted.

Our circuit courts have hundreds of eviction filings every week.

Rabbi Speigel and GIMA are working desperately to raise awareness of this issue. They lobby and testify in front of the Indianapolis City Council and the state legislature. They are determined to change our state laws so our poor people can have safe and secure housing at an affordable cost.

It was amazing to learn from Rabbi Speigel and Hiba. They are truly doing the work of God.

We too often stereotype people who are different from us. We are especially eager to put different religions in a box called “evil.” But this is a very lazy attitude.

When we take time to learn about people of other faith traditions, we will learn that they are doing some amazing things under the banner of the “Love of God.”

I am very excited about my new friends, Rabbi Speigel and Hiba. I hope you get to meet some amazing people like this soon.

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs. He is also the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Indianapolis.)

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