We all know it’s good to share, but how about sharing our prayer spaces, as an Australian church has done?
A search for somewhere convenient for Friday prayers has led to an unusual joining of two communities.
Every Friday, St Paul’s Anglican church in Beaconsfield hosts Muslim prayers in its community hall.
The enterprise began shortly after Imam Feizel Chothia knocked on the door of Reverend Peter Humphris…
he had been trying to find somewhere convenient for Muslim workers to pray with little success.
“I thought to myself that it would be wonderful to pray in this beautiful church…It certainly has the aura of the sanctity associated with prayer.”
Humphris said he was delighted by the request… he was thanked by one of the Muslim parishioners who said that he prayed one day all religions would be one.
Humphris told him that was never his prayer.
“My prayer is that there will always be a diversity of religions… that we will honour each other and discover that it’s in that diversity that we’ve got life.”
Mr Chothia said despite their differences the two religions had much in common and the Islamic faith held Christian figures such as Jesus and Moses in the highest regard.
“I think this is where we have the opportunity of benefiting from the wisdom of the other.”
“The Prophet (Muhammad) interestingly says the difference of opinion is the source of the greatest blessing because your ideas and your preconceived notions or orthodoxies are challenged,” he said.
But despite the generosity and quest for meaning between the two spiritual leaders, some of the Anglican parishioners have not welcomed the move and have left the church.
Mr Chothia said Western Australia’s Muslim community had warmly embraced the idea.
He said the Prophet Muhammad gave Christians sanctuary for prayers at his mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia in the seventh century… St Paul’s was reciprocating that gesture.
The Anglican “mosque” has also attracted international attention and tourists from places such as Malaysia have been attending.
The next project is to build a water feature outside the hall for Muslim ablutions and Christian rituals.
It’s not surprising the Muslim community has embraced the idea, but hard to see why the church is so enthused, unless it’s the satisfaction of reciprocating a 7th century favour. As for the water feature, the idea of Muslim men washing their feet alongside Christian babies being baptized is not too savoury!
Many Jewish and Christian leaders rush to engage in interfaith shindigs, which gives them kudos and career advancement, but is sharing prayer space a step too far, in that Muslims might use it as an opportunity to push their faith? In Scotland, a Muslim read from the Koran at an Anglican cathedral.
The congregation at St Mary’s cathedral heard the Muslim version of the Virgin Mary’s conception of Jesus, from the Koran’s Sura 19, sung by Madinah Javed.
The passage explains how Mary gave birth after an angel told her God would give her a child. Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet, and that He was a precursor to Mohammed rather than the Son of God.
Sura 19 states that Mary was “ashamed” after she gave birth, and that the infant Jesus miraculously spoke to her from his crib and claimed he was “a servant of God”. It denies Jesus was the Son of God. A post on the cathedral’s Facebook page describes the service as a “wonderful event…
The congregation was also reminded during the service that it is not only Christians who give honour to Jesus. We were joined by friends from two local Muslim communities.”
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali condemned the reading:
“Christians should know what their fellow citizens believe and this can include reading the Qur’an for themselves, whether in the original or in translation. This is not, however, the same thing as having it read in Church in the context of public worship,”
He’s quite correct; allowing into the church a religion whose tenets contradict that faith is folly. Even more foolish is rabbis welcoming into their sanctuaries those who not only denigrate our faith, but deny our right to our historic homeland.
In Texas, a Jewish community shared their synagogue after fire destroyed a mosque
In the small Gulf Coast city of Victoria, Texas, there are several churches, but just one synagogue, and one mosque – at least, until the mosque mysteriously burned down
Now, in a sense, the synagogue has become a mosque: the Jews of Victoria handed the Muslims the key to the building so they would have a place to worship while rebuilding.
“I know several members of the mosque, and we felt for them,”
said Robert Loeb, the president of Bnai Israel, which affiliates with the Reform Movement.
The Victoria community held an interfaith event in front of the mosque. Through local donations and a GoFundMe page, the mosque raised over $900,000 in the span of one day to rebuild the mosque. The Anti-Defamation League also attended the event.
“This is sad for everyone in the community and as Jews we especially have to feel for the Muslim community. When a calamity like this happens, we have to stand together,”
Loeb said, adding, sharing the space just made sense:
“We have probably 25 to 30 Jewish people in Victoria, and they probably have 100 Muslims. We got a lot of building for a small amount of Jews.”
While it’s certainly true that Muslims are fast outnumbering Jews, does it necessarily follow that we should hand over all our shuls for Muslim worship?
Fairfax readers would no doubt think so:
Michael Boss, a Christian from the City of Casey… asked all 105 local Christian churches to pledge “friendship” with Muslims to help stop “the growing problem of Islamophobia”.
Only one of the 105 replied.
That was the Hampton Park Uniting Church, a place that gives away lunch once a week to the needy including many of Islamic faith. Reverend Mat Harry says:
“It was a no-brainer…. You have to stand up for what you believe in and racism is not acceptable.”
The “reconciliatory” statement read:
“We, as Christians who have been called to love our neighbours as ourselves, unite strongly with the Muslim community against racism and bigotry. Muslims are not our enemies. Christians and Muslims are brothers and sisters.”
Mr Boss says he was “embarrassed” by the response from the Christian churches… He helped set up Casey Against Racism during the heated (and successful) campaign against a mosque being built in Narre Warren.
Boss and the good Rev Harry are totally clueless, as Islam is NOT a race. Nor do they understand the concept of separating religion and politics. Every country has a right to decide who should be allowed in, and to insist that those who do come abide by our laws. The churches must not lay down the law. They are there to deal with matters spiritual. Nor is it consistent with Christian teaching to demonise those with different opinions. A more nuanced – and intelligent – approach would surely be to research why people have concerns about Islam.
Readers may remember Temple Beth Israel’s embarrassing foray into sharing their Temple, when in 2014 they put on a Sacred Music Concert.
“bringing together performers and communities from Melbourne’s Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Indigenous traditions…with the message that there are a variety of ways one can praise G-d, and to form a perfect backdrop for promoting harmony and understanding”.
Grotesquely, the second half took on a dystopian dimension, bringing
“something new to TBI’s sanctuary, the Muslim call to prayer, and a chanting of the 55th Surah of the Koran”, supposedly“ revealing many points of commonality between Judaism and Islam in its languages and texts”
We could conceivably overlook the fact the Muslim call to prayer was a blatant – and possibly threatening – missionising attempt, but how can Temple Beth endorse Surah 55, which describes how Muslim men will enjoy deflowering virgins in paradise, whilst the unbeliever will suffer the torments of hell, given the progressive commitment to interfaith harmony and gender equality?
Anglican priest Rev. Dr. Mark Durie has long warned about the folly of allowing Muslims to pray in the sacred spaces of others. He explains:
A prominent element in Islamic daily prayers is the recitation of Al-Fatihah (the Opening), the first chapter of the Koran… the final sentence of Al-Fatihah is a request for guidance “in the straight path” of Allah’s blessed ones, not the path “of those against whom You are wrathful, nor of those who are astray.”
Who are the ones who are said to be under Allah’s wrath or to have gone astray from his straight path? According to the revered commentator Ibn Kathir, Muhammad himself gave the answer: “Those who have earned the anger are the Jews, and those who are led astray are the Christians.”
Al-Fatihah is as central to Islamic devotion as the Lord’s Prayer is to Christians: It is recited at least 17 times a day as part of daily Muslim prayers. Yet according to Muhammad himself, this prayer, which is on the lips of every pious Muslim day and night, castigates Christians as misguided and Jews as objects of Allah’s wrath.
…Churches should not welcome into their buildings the veneration of Isa the Islamic Jesus, who, as a true Muslim, is intended to bring about the final, violent destruction of Christianity. By all means, let Christians show kindness to their Muslim neighbors, but the sentiments embedded in Islamic daily prayers, which curse Jews as the target of Allah’s wrath and Christians for going astray, can have no place in a Christian church.
Nor, I would add, do these sentiments have a place in a Jewish synagogue or temple.
Both Christianity and Islam are proselytizing religions, whereas Judaism is not. We don’t seek to convert everyone to Judaism – though we won’t reject those who sincerely want to join.
Jews believe in the mantra “to each their own”, respecting people’s right to worship in the way they choose. That, in my opinion, is true diversity in religion.