Uniting Church leaders from across Australia have joined interfaith and ecumenical friends in a statement of solidarity with Australia’s Islamic community. Uniting Church in Australia President, Rev Prof Andrew Dutney, is one of thousands of faith and community leaders who’ve signed on to a declaration that “We’ll Love Muslims 100 Years.”
The statement was a reference to the banner headline in the Weekend Australian on 9 August “We’ll Fight Islam 100 Years.”
“Recent public statements and media coverage about Muslim-Australians in some sections of the Australian media have been inflammatory and divisive,” said Andrew.
“In our multi-faith society, Jesus’ call to love your neighbour means that Christians are called to meet, befriend and care about our neighbours who are Muslim.”
“Because of this, we can’t just stand by if they are unfairly insulted or marginalised.”
Signatories to the original Love for 100 Years statement declare that, “We believe people of Muslim faith are being unfairly smeared in the eyes of the Australian public by both subtle and overt links to violent extremism in political and media discourse.”
“We know and understand the deep concern and hurt this is causing to our Muslim friends and the risks these kind of generalisations present to social harmony and cohesion.”
Within days, the Australian Islamic community responded with thanks and gratitude saying, “We would like to say that we too will love non-Muslims for 100 years, and beyond.”
The response statement condemns terrorist activities which are carried out in the name of Islam, highlighting that these actions contradict the teachings of the Islamic faith. Further interfaith interaction is then invited, to encourage groups as they work together to build stronger relationships and a stronger Australia.
Imam Muhammad Azhari, from the Council of Imams Queensland – the organisation who initiated the response – said that the Love for 100 Years statement has encouraged Muslim’s to engage in productive dialogue.
“The love for 100 years campaign comes as an affirmation towards the support of humanity. This has disrupted the image and perception of Muslims being a violent people, and for that we are extremely grateful,” he said.
“Muslims work hard and pay taxes to provide for their families and to contribute to the growth of our wonderful Australian society. Muslims, however, also have to deal with the constant marginalisation of the media and political association of their faith with acts of foreign violence and politically motivated extremism. This association has unfortunately led to a notable increase in overt racism within the broader community in recent years and many Muslims often feel threatened or ostracised as a result. Islam, like all Abrahamic faiths, teaches harmony and tolerance – this message seems to get lost in the media today,” Muhammad continued.
“Importantly, we consider Love for 100 Years to be just the beginning. It is a stepping stone to bigger and better things and an opportunity for us all to start working together on many more initiatives to promote harmony.”