Between fall trips to Africa and South America, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick , the technically “retired” archbishop of Washington, stopped long enough in Washington to be honored Oct. 10 for Extraordinary Commitment to Peace by an organization that’s itself an active force for peace through understanding, the Rumi Forum.
The Rumi Forum has for 13 years aimed to foster interfaith and intercultural dialogue, through dialogue, seminars, scholarships, study opportunities, travel and other activities.
In honoring Cardinal McCarrick, the forum cited his long work on various national and international bodies, as a human rights advocate, and his emphasis on education and meeting the needs of new immigrants. The annual awards dinner also honored Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and two State Department employees –- Hannah Rosenthal, special envoy to combat anti-Semitism, and Farah Anwar Pandith, special representative to Muslim communities — with prizes for Extraordinary Commitment to Public Service, and Ajla Delkic, executive director of the Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina, for Extraordinary Commitment to Peace Building – Youth Award.
In brief comments as he accepted the award, Cardinal McCarrick said the honor was sincerely appreciated at a time when simply talking to people and working to understand one another is a necessary and too-rarely attempted necessity.
He paraphrased the 13th-century Sufi philosopher and poet for whom the forum is named, Mawlana Jalaladdin Rumi: “Your task is not to seek for love, but to seek the barriers inside yourself which form barriers to love.”
That philosophy meshes well with that of another 13th-century religious leader, St. Francis of Assisi, Cardinal McCarrick said. St. Francis also was known for what today would be considered interreligious dialogue, in particular for his time spent with a Muslim ruler, Malik al-Kamil, the Sultan of Egypt, on a quest for peace at the time of the fifth Crusade.
The Rumi Forum’s principles are broad:
We have no one particular agenda and no inherent ideology, other than respect and genuine concern for the spiritual quality and welfare of life on this planet of ours.
We are a nonpartisan organization; however, in principle, we support activities pertaining to the better service to humanity, such as promoting conflict resolution within and between nations. As such, we are committed to universal values of freedom, justice, democracy and the rights of all living beings.
And its advisory board is a veritable Who’s Who of interfaith understanding, including a handful of former ambassadors; Catholic, Episcopal and Presbyterian clergy; and academics from Georgetown University, American University, Johns Hopkins, Catholic University of America, George Mason University and George Washington University.