In the last year Muslims have murdered hundreds of thousands of Christians through out the world, with hardly a murmur from our media. This guy is a special kind of person if he expects ordinary Christians to celebrate those who senselessly follow the koran.
Former Methodist minister Keith Rowe, right, and Muslim friend Syukri Halim at the Hastings mosque. Rowe says statements by church groups after the Christchurch mosque attacks fell short of celebrating the Muslim presence in New Zealand.
And there is further evidence that Albekami interprets koran in the historically accurate manner of an Islamic Caliphate, eg: verses 7:166, 2:65, and 5:60.
Now let’s look at how the media spin this association:
Former Methodist leader Keith Rowe says church groups haven’t gone far enough in accepting Islam.
Christian groups have reacted in vastly different ways in the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque attacks – some reaching out with offers of support, others warning darkly of an Islamic threat. In part one of our series ‘God in the Time of Terror’, Tony Wall speaks to a retired minister who has spent much of his life fostering Christian-Muslim relations and lost his cousin in the terrorist attacks.
Rev Dr Keith Rowe had given a speech to a group of Christians and Muslims in Auckland when a woman in a burqa approached him.
“She put her arms around me, which is not a usual happening,” laughs Rowe, former president of the Methodist Church.
“When we’d untangled ourselves I realised who it was.”
The woman in traditional garb was his first cousin, Linda Armstrong, who he hadn’t seen for a while.
“She was a recent convert to Islam. She’d looked around in life over the years, she’d been involved in conservative Christian groups, and not found anything that quite gave her the direction she was seeking.
“She found a very happy home [with Islam].”
Rowe describes Armstrong’s conversion about a decade ago as a “remarkable coincidence”, given that he’d spent a large part of his career as a minister fostering relations between the faiths both here and in Australia.
Fast forward to March 15, 2019 and Rowe is driving to his home in Havelock North – a gunman has opened fire in mosques in Christchurch and he’s been asked to write a Stuff column.
“At that stage we knew of nine people being killed. You could almost get your head around that – later in the day we realised how many it actually was and there’s no way you can get your mind around that.”
The next morning he rang Armstrong. There was no answer, so he left a message.
“I said ‘sad to hear of what’s happened in Christchurch – hope you’ve got no friends who are caught up in it and look after yourself’. That message I guess is still on her phone.”
Later that day he saw his cousin’s name in a media report of those feared dead in the attack on the Linwood mosque.
Armstrong had been sitting in a chair, as she always did because of her bad knees, when the gunman entered. She didn’t stand a chance.
Rowe went from somebody writing about an horrific event to being directly affected.
“It left me feeling … thoughtful,” he says.
Rowe shared his personal loss for a Stuff series looking at how various Christian groups have reacted in the aftermath of the Christchurch massacres.
His liberal views are in stark contrast to those of some conservative evangelicals, who saw the elevation of Islam in the public consciousness after the attacks as a direct threat to their perception of New Zealand as a Christian country.
This included a gathering opposite the Al Noor mosque – scene of the deadliest attack on March 15 – by members of Destiny Church to “re-claim Christchurch for Jesus”, and posts by pentecostal preachers on social media attacking Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for wearing a hijab and speaking in Arabic during remembrance services.
Overall, Rowe says, the Christian response was a hospitable one.
“Many embraced their Muslim neighbours in a way they hadn’t before,” he says.
“I think a lot of people in the church and the wider community crossed over the line from suspicion to embrace, and that was a pretty big step for them – given the bad press the Islamic faith in general gets.”
But he says a statement a few days after the massacres by national church leaders, some liberal, others conservative, didn’t go far enough.
The statement expressed “profound horror” at the attacks and said there was no room for racial hatred in New Zealand.
“It said the things you’d expect about sympathy for Muslims and against violence,” Rowe says.
“But … it fell short of … celebrating and welcoming the Muslim presence in New Zealand, it didn’t acknowledge any Christian complicity in the perpetuation of Islamaphobic attitudes across the centuries and it didn’t look forward to working together with the Muslim community for the common good.”
Dr Geoff Troughton, religious studies director at Victoria University, says the statement was about finding wording that everyone from across the church groups could agree on, which wasn’t easy.
Troughton says while there was concern among some Christians about what they saw as the “promotion” of Islam through its greater visibility post-March 15, overall there was a broad spectrum of “religiously inspired goodwill, charity and acts of compassion”.
“A lot of secular people were presuming there would be distrust, if not hostility, and seemed surprised Christian communities expressed the opposite.
“The surprise is suggestive of how much we may underestimate the extent of that goodwill.”
Rowe is full of praise for the way the Muslim community conducted itself after the massacres.
It was “consistent with the … life affirming impulses at the heart of the Islamic way,” he says.
He points to the words of Farid Ahmed, whose wife was killed in the attacks and who said at the national remembrance service that he had forgiven the gunman and chosen peace and love.
Rowe says it was a powerful affirmation of life.
“It was also an antidote to a media-cultivated belief … that Islam is an inherently violent way of life. We saw a suffering people embodying the heart of compassionate religion.”
Rowe believes Christian churches of all types need to get over their view that they alone have access to truth.
“It begins with a general fear of the other, fear of difference and it focuses on various scapegoats and among those convenient scapegoats at the moment are Muslim people, and for some of the conservative evangelical churches, too many of them, upon homosexual people as well.
“They are creating unity within their own membership by scapegoating others.
“I think their words are on the verge of hate speech … that’s true when they speak about Muslims and it’s true when they speak about homosexuals.
“Unless the churches discover how to welcome diversity and to work with people who march to a different tune, their contribution to society will continue to diminish.”
Rowe was ordained in the 1960s and was a minister for 30 years before moving to Australia, where he worked at the Uniting Church in Sydney.
It was in Sydney that he became involved in Christian-Muslim relations, while working at a parish next to Al Faisal College in Auburn.
“I developed a deep friendship with the director there.”
Over the next few years he developed Christian theology and practice for inter-faith engagement, wrote a book called Living With the Neighbour Who is Different, organised a gathering of imams and church ministers from across Sydney and visited Saudi Arabia with a Muslim group.
He returned to New Zealand in 2002 and continued his inter-faith work.
Rowe says Christians have some big issues to grapple with.
“There is a sort of a culture war going on within the Christian community … between those who believe that the heart of the Christian way … is to continue the way of life pioneered by Jesus – inclusion, reconciliation, care for your neighbour, building a society good for everyone – against those who say it’s about adherence to some rules that were laid down for another age.”
He says it can be tough spreading an inclusive message.
“The liberal or progressive Christian perspective is one that sadly is seldom heard because we’re crowded out of the airwaves by the Brian Tamakis … of this world.”
Rowe says that, in his experience, Muslims and Christians both want the same thing – looking after their families and communities, and responding to some kind of divine purpose in life.
“Faiths develop a hard crust around that, which tends to become judgmental, vindictive, violent – caught up with negative political movements.
“You can decide whether you’re going to relate from the rough edges of your faith to the rough edges of other people’s faith, or whether you’re going to try to relate from the hospitable heart of your own faith, seeking out the hospitable heart of the other’s faith. I’ve taken the second road.”
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