Faith-filled friendships essential ingredient for breaking down Islamophobia

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Alys Gagnon and April Robinson from the synod’s Uniting Through Faiths unit at an interfaith balloon event in Bendigo to show their support for their Muslim neighbours.

A Pastoral Statement from the Rev Sharon Hollis
Moderator of the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania

As Interfaith September draws to a close, I want to encourage people of all faiths, and none, to remember there are eleven other months in which we can also celebrate the strengths of interfaith dialogue and relationships.

The need to walk together is imperative. New data from a university research project tracking attitudes to Islam has found that people who do not actually know any Muslims are more convinced that they pose a threat.

This is as unsurprising as it is alarming.

The Uniting Church has a strong commitment to an interfaith community and I would urge all members to make connections with Muslim neighbours and colleagues, and to seek out multi-faith groups so together we can break down this growing fear of ‘the other’.

Some members of Federal Parliament and sections of the media are fuelling this fear, by utilising the complexities of our world to make uninformed provocative statements. As Christians we are called to stand with all who experience discrimination and exclusion. We are also called to address this fear and ignorance with knowledge and respect.

We believe that as a nation we are capable of being inclusive and of protecting and supporting those who experience vilification and alienation. We are capable of being wiser and stronger when we open ourselves to the gift of the other.

As people of faith we believe that the vibrant interfaith community is comfortable living and working in a secular environment where people of all faiths, or none, are welcomed. We seek what we know we have in common. We have come to know that there is nothing to fear from diversity. We welcome the stranger to share a place at the table and in this way we become friends.

I encourage all Victorians and Tasmanians to build on these qualities of welcome, hospitality and openness of mind and heart so that together we build a rich, diverse and generous nation.

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