Facing Racism

Franciscan Federation JPIC Resolution for 2021– 2022
Confronting Racism with a Franciscan Heart

Statement of Resolution
We, the members of the Franciscan Federation, renounce the sin of racism and recognize our complicity.  We are deeply troubled by the acts of hate, discrimination, inequity, oppression.   We recognize our call to be peacemakers, transforming the difficulties, tragedies and acts of violence into peace.


Saint Francis reminds us in ADMONITION 27 of the virtues of putting vices to flight—

  • Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.
  • Where there is patience and humility, there is neither anger nor disturbance.
  • Where there is poverty with joy, there is neither greed nor avarice.
  • Where there is rest and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor restlessness.
  • Where there is fear of the Lord to guard an entrance, there the enemy cannot have a place to enter.
  • Where there is mercy and discernment, there is neither excess nor hardness of heart.

In “FRATELLI TUTTI”, Pope Francis reminds us: “Saint Francis of Assisi addressed his brothers and sisters and proposed to them a way of life marked by the flavor of the Gospel. Of the counsels Francis offered, I would like to select the one in which he calls for a love that transcends the barriers of geography and distance, and declares blessed all those who love their brother “as much when he is far away from him as when he is with him”. In his simple and direct way, Saint Francis expressed the essence of a fraternal openness that allows us to acknowledge, appreciate and love each person, regardless of physical proximity, regardless of where he or she was born or lives.”1

“A readiness to discard others finds expression in vicious attitudes that we thought long past, such as racism, which retreats underground only to keep reemerging. Instances of racism continue to shame us, for they show that our supposed social progress is not as real or definitive as we think.20

Racism is a virus that quickly mutates and, instead of disappearing, goes into hiding, and lurks in waiting.  97

In LAUDATO SI’, Pope Francis draws a connection between praising the God of creation and recognizing our duty to care for each other by caring for the planet, “our common home.” But the core of Francis’s message is even more challenging. He argues that praising the God of creation includes being willing to challenge and transform systems, institutions, and our own patterns of comfort and consumption that fail to respect our duty to care for the planet and for each other. “Human life is itself a gift,” he says, “which must be defended from various forms of debasement.”

  • In June 2020, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, the Sisters of St. Francis issued a statement about confronting the issue of Racism.  Read that statement here!
  • In August 2019, the LCWR members affirmed a resolution for 2019-2022 entitled, Creating Communion at the Intersection of Racism, Migration & Climate Crisis.
  • Because this topic is so critical, the charism office sponsored a Facing Racism Taskforce to pursue education and reflect on the sin of racism and the impact it has had on us and how it continues to impact us.

One suggested action step encourages us to engage in conversation around an identified local, regional, national, or global issue rooted in the intersection of racism, migration, and climate crisis and to examine its effects, explore the underlying causes, formulate a common response, and report on strategic initiatives taken in pursuit of justice.

Muslim Relationships


Early Connections Between Franciscans and Muslims

Nine hundred years of history connect Francis of Assisi and the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia with our ongoing relationship with the Zubaida mosque in Yardley, Pennsylvania.

In the midst of a continuous crusader war to recover lands from the Muslims, St. Francis and another Franciscan brother visited Sultan Malik al Kamil.  This visit—an example of outreach to the “other”—paved the way for another approach for Catholic/Muslim interaction. While no formal records remain of the meeting, there will be formal agreements that will emerge with Franciscans and Muslims in the 1500s.   After a number of wars, the Ottoman peoples who had control of the area, including Jerusalem, asked the Franciscan priests to be responsible for protection of the holy places of Christianity, a request to which they agreed.  This situation continued with the creation of Israel in the 1940s with legal transfer of lands for protection again asked of the Franciscans.

Connection Between Our Congregation and the Muslim Community

In light of these centuries of respect and dialogue among Muslims and Franciscans, our congregation’s Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation Committee (JPIC), initiated the idea to establish an ongoing dialogue with a mosque within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  In 2012, through the outreach of one of our Companions in Mission, a two-hour discussion began with Iman J. Chebeli of the Zubaida mosque in Yardley.  The sisters and companions who attended were invited to sit behind the men at prayer to have an introduction to the prayers. As is the custom among Muslims, women and men pray in separate areas when praying at the mosque.  After two presentations on the basics of Islam as well as an overview of women and Islam, we were overwhelmed with an invitation to dinner.  Thus began an ongoing dialogue on topics like immigration, the overview of Christianity, and the Franciscan understanding of the 1219 meeting where we used the expertise of congregational members Sr. Anne Amati and Sr. Patricia Hutchison.

What is the Zubaida Foundation?

Zubaida Foundation was created in 2005 to provide “congregational prayer, educational programs for all ages, social activities, interfaith dialogues, and peace efforts of all faith in conformity with the teachings of Islam”.

Ongoing Relationships with Zubaida Foundation

We were invited to dinners with the EID FIR (which celebrates the end of Ramadan by “breaking the fast” at sunset) and the EID AD ADHA (the Feast of Sacrifice and the most important religious holiday for our Muslim friends). At these events which are celebrated with a number of mosques, we have been warmly received and have had the opportunity to meet and know family members.  One of the recent highlights was being invited to a wedding at the mosque where a warm sense of hospitality was extended.  We were especially touched because this was the daughter of the respected Iman Chebili whose family have been trained Imans for seven generations in Lebanon.

Mutual respect and trust have deepened over the five years. We look forward to continued dialogue.

One of the most significant impacts of this interaction is the support and cooperation of the Franciscan Action Network and UPN to have a film produced on the Sultan and the Saint.

Read: Peace Through Charity in Islam by Dr. Rukhsana Rahma

Relevance of Diversity

In addition to our Mission Statement (1986) and Commitment Statement (1996), we, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, follow The Rule and Life of the Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Assisi. The rule calls the sisters to

  • be totally conformed to the Gospel (article #11),
  • never want to be over others (article 19),
  • be gentle, peaceful and unassuming, mild and humble, speaking respectfully to all, and
  • not be quarrelsome, contentious, or judgmental (article 20).

The call to be respectful and nonjudgmental, loving others who are similar to us as well as those who are different from us is the reason why we strive to address issues of diversity, racism, and lack of multiculturalism as we seek to move out of our personal comfort zones (Chapter Directive, 2002).

This challenge calls us to become aware of our own personal attitudes as we move deeper into a conversion of heart that opens us to be attentive to the various cultural groups such as gender, race, ethnicity, physical ability, sexual orientation, age, religion, economic status, etc. It also provides us an opportunity to reflect upon our own stereotypes, assumptions, and prejudices we may have toward others who think, speak, or behave differently than ourselves.

The information posted in this section represents various ways that we challenge ourselves to be attentive to the work of diversity and inclusion.

Meaning of Diversity

Diversity refers to the variations between and within cultural groups. A cultural group is made up of individuals who share certain norms, values, and traditions. There are many levels of diversity, often stated as primary and secondary groupings. The primary cultural groups are race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and physical ability. Differences play a role in how one treats another person/group and how one is treated. Valuing diversity within society minimizes conflicts and maximizes creative opportunities.