I HAVE been surprised and delighted at the community response to the Christchurch massacre.
I would never have imagined the overwhelming support given by the people of Aotearoa New Zealand to the families who suffered from the mass killing of 50 people and the maiming of many more.
My surprise at the support is not because I believe the people of ‘The Land of the Long White Cloud’ are a heartless lot, but because the people killed and maimed were Muslim people.
Muslim people are often vilified, mainly because of a small group of extremists who cause terror around the world.
Many, if not most, Muslims claim to be peace-loving people who work for the good of the community and if you have come to know a Muslim person you would probably agree.
I guess my surprise is I would not have expected such overwhelming support to be given in Australia, but I well may be wrong.
Australia has a similar proportion of Christians and Muslims as Aotearoa New Zealand, yet in the news here, we are more likely to hear of protests over the building of a mosque in a community than the many interfaith dialogues and worship services that occur.
Over the years sentiment towards Islam has softened for many Christian people as they have befriended those who are Muslim, and I think the amazing support given to the Muslim community in the wake of this tragedy ‘over the ditch’ reflects this softening.
The Aotearoa New Zealand community has certainly shown itself to be a wonderfully inclusive community and many of us praise Jacinda Ardern for her sensitive and wise leadership since the tragedy.
I acknowledge Australian political leaders have shown their support for Muslims both here and over the sea and I hope this is a step towards our community here in Australia being more inclusive of those of different faith.
Not all Christians would easily warm to Islam being acceptable, but it is in the knowing of a person that barriers are broken down.
If we can share peaceably with one another we will all benefit, for there is strength in diversity.
We can all share what is good about our faith and learn from each other.
Even within the Christian faith there are a multitude of faith traditions and it is often enriching for our own life of faith to share with a Christian from another tradition.
Times change, opinions change, and for a Christian believer our attitudes should be based on that of the One we follow, Jesus Christ.
Jesus showed love and acceptance to those who were different to him, even in their faith.
Jesus asks us to love the Lord God and love our neighbour as our self, and to even love our enemy.
These are not easy commandments.
When we hear a Muslim resident of Christchurch say that he forgives the man who killed his family member, we know that this person is a child of God who follows a teaching of Jesus.
May God help us to love as Jesus loves.