Solidarity with Muslims

Solidarity with Muslims

Patrick McInerney

 Rabbi Zalman Kastel, Sheikh Wesam Charkawi, Fr Patrick McInerney
Rabbi Zalman Kastel, Sheikh Wesam Charkawi, Fr Patrick McInerney – by ABC western Sydney reporter Mohamed Taha @Mo_Taha1

Following up on my article, Muslims, Ramadan and Parish Life, which appeared in previous issue of The Swag, I would like to show how far-reaching such simple gestures can be.

On the 15th of December 2014, when I heard about the siege at Martin Place, my thoughts immediately went out to the hostages—I was held at gunpoint for hours during an armed robbery in Pakistan some years ago, so I know how it feels to be a hostage! But my thoughts also went to Muslims—in some way they too are held hostage, to the bad behaviour of criminal elements among them. They would no doubt be fearing a backlash. As a gesture of solidarity, I decided to visit the Lakemba mosque, all the more so when I heard there was to be an interfaith prayer service.When I arrived I was greeted by name (the value of previous visits). They told me the Pastor whom they had asked had not responded so asked would I be the Christian representative. I agreed. After the evening prayers, we gathered on the forecourt of the mosque. Sheikh Wesam Charkawi gave a brief address. Rabbi Zalman Kastel recited Psalm 23 in Hebrew and in English. I made some comment and offered an impromptu prayer. The Hon Tony Burke, Member for Watson, spoke about the solidarity of #illridewithyou.

Later that night, Tony Burke posted on his Facebook page a collage of photos of the four speakers, the sheikh, the rabbi, the priest and the politician. That post was liked over 30,000 times, received 1,131 comments and was shared over 3,400 times, where it would have garnered other likes and comments. Here is the link to the page and a selection of the comments:

  • A Rabbi, an Imam and a Catholic/Christian priest all working together in solidarity. This is multiculturalism at its best and is what Australia is all about. (NG)
  • Awesome people J proud to be Australian. I’m Muslim and it gives me hope seeing such educated and good hearted ppl out there. . #weareinthistogether #aussiespirit #illridewithyou (FO)
  • A Muslim, Jewish and Christian leader all side by side with no hate or conflict all against violence, I am proud to be Australian after seeing this! (VO)
  • I LIKE a mixture of faiths getting together for a common goal… (AD)
  • This is so nice to see. It would be nice if we could all live in harmony and enjoy this Beautiful Country we live in. (LF)
  • Beautiful to see inter faith cooperation. Jews, Muslims, Christians, black, white, gay or straight #illridewithyou (JR)
  • Wow, it’s so nice to see all these beautiful people coming out and standing side by side with Muslims. This is what the Australia we all know and love is all about… (AB)
  • A great inclusive thing to do, having a multi-denominational prayer with politicians. If this is meant to show a sign of unity, how come you forgot to let women in? (CR)
  • Australians unite regardless of political, and religious differences. We are are a peaceful Nation with different lives, thoughts and aspirations. Work for the betterment of Australia so that we may enjoy our wonderful country. (NN)
  • Thanks for including all those different religions here. We need more signs like that. People of all religions, praying together, standing up together against hatred, against violence, against intolerance. Religion equals peace. It should never equal hatred. (NS)
  • Now that’s my Australia! #illridewithyou :0*) (JT)
  • Multi-denominational – THIS is the Australian way. (MK)
  • This is where you hold your head high and say yes ..this is what religion needs to do more often ..join together ..let us all pray( and those that don’t believe pause and think) of those hostages and pray for a safe home for them all. (KD)
  • … solidarity across religions—so warm and heartening! (IG)
  • I am an Australian born and proud and I must say this is the true Aussie spirit!!!!! (LE)

On that same occasion, an ABC journalist took a photo of the rabbi, the priest and the sheikh holding hands as a gesture of interfaith solidarity. This too was posted on Facebook. On the ABC page it received 6,400 likes, 183 comments and 756 shares (I saw another post of the same photo with over 10,000 likes). Here is the link and a selection of the comments:

  • My grandfather was a Christian, grandmother a Jew and my father a Muslim…this couldn’t get any better!!! (RP)
  • Man I love this country #united (SL)
  • This is what Aussies do when times are tough – they unite. May God be with the hostages, I pray they are released safely. (JC)
  • This picture is beautiful. This is my country. Not the ignorant hate filled riff raff. One country, lots of diversity 🙂 Australia is the best country in the world! (DK)
  • this is beautiful! this is why Australia is such a beautiful country! if only we spent more time on what we have in common rather than our differences this world would be a better place ! #united #illridewithyou (IR)
  • There is still hope for humanity. Let’s stand together my HUMAN brothers and sisters against all forms of terrorism both overseas and on our shores. #OneLove #Unity (AO)
  • I really do love our city: might not always get along on the roads but we help each other out in the though times. (AC)
  • You know what that is a lovely picture to see with every one holding hands this is great to see. (KA)
  • Same but different. All worshipping God and respecting others. (NB)
  • This is history in the making the way it should be in society. Congratulations to all involved. (CM)
  • United in prayer we can move mountains .. (DS)
  • Best picture of the day. (LF)
  • Looks like a joke – you hear a rabbi iman and priest sitting in a pub …. (JS)
  • The like button doesn’t suffice for how much I LOVE THIS!!!!!!!! (DG)
  • Love this! (SS)
  • Now this is what I’m talking about!!! (SM)
  • More of this will make the world much better place!!!! Well done to all the religion leaders involved… (PK)
  • This is how it should always be! Everyone accepting each other’s beliefs and living in peace! (AH)
  • What an amazing few pictures! In light of today’s terrible news it just shows that the majority of all religions want peace. (CH)
  • A beautiful depiction of Australians uniting as one. (DA)
  • We love our country, we love our neighbor. There is no space for hate. I am glad to be in this country. No one can divide this nation. We all are Australian. (NM)
  • What a great picture wish the world was like this. (MG)
  • Best Pic, the beauty of Australia, crime is not associated with any religion .. we all stand together, makes me happy to live in such amazing country. J (BD)
  • This shows how the world should be. I am so proud. (RB)
  • Wonderfulllllllll, I want to see this so much. (VA)

Rabbi Zalman and I also attended a multi-faith prayer vigil in Hyde Park on the 18th December for the victims of the Peshawar school massacre. On both of these occasions I was touched by the sincerity and gratitude of ordinary Muslims who said to us:

  • “Thank you for coming.”
  • “Thank you for being with us.”
  • “It’s great to see the children of Abraham coming together.”
  • “This is how God wants us all to live, united, together, in peace.”

I have been astonished how social media is able to multiply that good effect many thousands of times over through liking, commenting on and sharing posts and images on Facebook. I like to think that my small effort contributed to the wonderful sense of interfaith solidarity that prevailed in Martin Place and across the city and the country during those testing days. And it all began years ago with the simple gesture of visiting the local mosque on Eid day!

McInerney, Patrick J. “Solidarity with Muslims.” The Swag, Autumn 2015, 35-36.

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