In the wake of the recent Paris killings, I helped organise an interfaith meeting of Jews, Christians, and Muslims at the Kilbirnie Islamic Centre.
All three faiths denounced the killings, as per our media release from the Wellington Council of Christians and Jews.
Here’s what I said to the 100 or so people gathered at the meeting:
Kia ora tatau.
We have come together today in the spirit of friendship, with a shared purpose.
We all are saddened by recent events in Paris, and the senseless deaths of people killed simply because of their occupation or religion.
We all are fearful that the hatred that brews overseas will spread to Aotearoa / New Zealand. This hatred and fear are counterproductive. The killers and fearmongers score a victory whenever our hatred and fear grow.
We all understand that it is contrary to all of our religious teachings to kill someone for something they have said, written, or believe.
We all know that despite our strength of faith and pride in our religions, there are people who do ghastly things in the name of religion. They do not represent us, and we must not let them define us.
We all recognise that the freedom of expression that enables us to practice our religions is the same freedom of expression that enables others to parody and ridicule us. These rights are critical to maintaining a free society where we can peacefully coexist. It is unfortunate when this parody is offensive, but our response should always be one of dialogue and education.
As a result of these events, I believe we should ask ourselves what we can do, individually, as well as together in our religions and wider society:
- To help improve relations between our religions
- To learn more about each other, accepting our differences, and resolving disagreements through discussion. At times we’ll need to agree to disagree.
- To speak out against religious violence, no matter who the perpetrator.
- To prevent extremism from silencing the voice of diversity, even when we are offended by the voice.
- To overcome hatred through positivity and understanding.
Thank you, shalom, salaam, peace.