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Christchurch attack offends the decency of our common humanity: Archbishop Freier

Anglican leaders worldwide express support for grieving NZ Muslims after two mosques terrorised during Friday prayers.

Christchurch's new Anglican Bishop Peter Carrell issued a joint statement from the city's Christian leaders, which said in part: "No religious organisation or group deserves to be the target of someone's hate -- regardless of beliefs."

PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons

By Mark Brolly with agencies

March 18 2019 

Melbourne’s Archbishop Philip Freier says acts of brutality such as that against Muslims worshipping at two mosques in Christchurch on 15 March “offend the decency of our common humanity”.

Dr Freier, the Anglican Primate of Australia, said he had been in contact in with one of the two New Zealand-based Primates of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, NZ and Polynesia, Archbishop Philip Richardson, “and assured him of our continuing in prayer for the survivors, the bereaved, medical staff, the Muslim Community, and the people of New Zealand and Australia”.

“We stand in solidarity with the Muslim Community and pray for peace,” Dr Freier tweeted.

In a separate statement, he said: “Acts of brutality like the outrage in Christchurch offend the decency of our common humanity. Our hearts go out to all who grieve or have been traumatised. Australia and New Zealand are closely bound by history, geography and heritage, and Australians know how appalled the people of New Zealand are at such awful mass murder in their country. We pray for all who suffer.”

Fifty people died and dozens were injured after a gunman opened fire on two Christchurch mosques during Friday prayers. A 28-year-old Australian-born man has been charged with murder.

Bishop Philip Huggins, the President of the National Council of Churches in Australia and a recently retired assistant Anglican Bishop of Melbourne, spoke at two vigils in honour of the Christchurch victims, organised by the Islamic Council of Victoria, outside the State Library of Victoria on 16 and 18 March.

“Our hearts break when people go to say their prayers and are attacked by terrorists,” Bishop Huggins said at the 16 March vigil.

“I wanted to be here to say a prayer from my tradition and to give the best support I possibly can to my dear Muslim brothers and sisters as they grieve.

“I want to pray for those who’ve died, I want to pray for those bereaved, I want to pray for those injured – and that’s today.

“Tomorrow, I want to work with everybody to stop such things ever happening again.”

Victorian Governor Linda Dessau and State Multicultural Affairs Minister Richard Wynne were among the speakers at Monday’s vigil calling for unity, respect and harmony.

Christchurch’s Anglican Bishop Peter Carrell, who took office only last month in a city still rebuilding from devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, said in a statement issued while police were still searching for the attacker that many people in the South Island city would have family and friends who were being affected by the disruption to central Christchurch, “some of whom may still be in a ‘lock-down’ situation”.

“Prayer for our inner Christchurch city ministers (all denominations), our schools, our hospitals and our chaplains would be much appreciated,” Bishop Carrell said.

“Especially, let’s pray for the Muslim community of Christchurch who appear to be the single community most affected by the shootings.

“May God be merciful to us all.”

Later, Bishop Carrell issued a statement on behalf of the leaders of churches in Christchurch city and Canterbury province, which surrounds it.

“Church leaders are absolutely devastated at the unprecedented situation in Christchurch this afternoon and our hearts and prayers go to all involved. No religious organisation or group deserves to be the target of someone’s hate – regardless of beliefs.

“We stand for an Aotearoa New Zealand which will never condone such violence. So across the churches of Christchurch and Canterbury, we are praying for our Muslim brothers and sisters, for those injured and those who have lost loved ones, for the police, ambulance and other emergency services, and for all in the city of Christchurch who are feeling distress and fear due to this event.  We are upholding you all in our prayers.

“We pray too for the shooter and their supporters, because for any person to do this, they must have such hatred in their hearts, such misalignment of the value of human life, that they too, need our prayer.

“We thank many others from around our nation and the world who are praying for peace in Christchurch.”

Archbishop Richardson and his fellow NZ-based Primate, Maori Archbishop Don Tamihere, expressed shock at the appalling and horrific acts of violence in Christchurch. 

“We feel utterly saddened for those who have lost their lives, and for their families and loved ones who mourn them,” they said. “Indeed, we mourn with them as fellow citizens and members of the same human whanau [a Maori word for ‘extended family’], and we utterly condemn the despicable and cowardly acts of violence that took their lives.

“The freedom of worship and religious life is an absolute right to all in this land. We choose to stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters and support their continued and inalienable right to live and worship here in peace. 

“All of us who live here in Aotearoa New Zealand must stand in solidarity in the face of such evil – and we call upon Anglicans throughout Aotearoa New Zealand to uphold all those affected in prayer, and to respond to this act by rejecting the rhetoric of hatred and religious intolerance, and to show compassion and kindness to all our neighbours who wish to live here in peace.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury expressed profound sympathy for the victims and relatives of the terrorist act in NZ.

“Let all Christians pray for healing of people, interfaith relations and New Zealand itself,” Archbishop Justin Welby said. “Jesus calls us to welcome strangers and love our neighbour however different.”

Bishop Sarah Mullally of London, who told the BBC that “an attack against faith anywhere is an attack on faith everywhere”, joined the Mayor of London, Mr Sadiq Khan, at Friday prayers at East London Mosque to honour the victims of the Christchurch attack.

The Christchurch Inner-City Christian Ministers’ Association issued a letter to the Muslim Community of Christchurch: “In the face of today’s horrific shooting, the combined inner-city Christian ministers and their congregations wish to extend our love to the wider Muslim Community of Christchurch and assure them of our friendship and support at this time of great loss.

“Be assured of our continuing prayers as our joint city community and people struggle to understand what has happened in the wake of this unconscionable act.

“As members of two faith traditions, born out of a shared Abrahamic inheritance, we stand in solidarity with you. Looking, and crying, to God, the source of all.

“Peace be with you.”

The letter was signed on behalf of Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and Salvation Army congregations, including the Christ Church Transitional Anglican Cathedral, St Mary the Virgin in Addington and St Luke’s in the City.

In the NZ capital, the Wellington Abrahamic Council of Jews, Christians, and Muslims condemned the violence against the Muslim Community soon after the attack.

“While the situation is still unfolding, it is clear that many innocent people have been killed – may they rest in peace,” a statement by the Council said.

“The Jewish and Christian communities send love and support to our Muslim brothers and sisters.

“Such deadly violence aimed at religious people has been unknown in New Zealand – until now, and has no place in our normally peaceful country. Now is the time to stand together, support our Muslim friends, and most importantly, keep talking and keep working to better understand each other.”

The Anglican Assistant Bishop of Wellington, Dr Eleanor Sanderson, and Roman Catholic priest Fr Ron Bennett, Christian co-chairs of the interfaith group, led a small group of church representatives to the headquarters of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, which is based in the city’s Kilbirnie Mosque.

The Chief Executive of the Federation, Sultan Eusoff, said: “We want to thank you all for your prayers and coming here today. It’s important we stay together at this time of sadness. It’s good to know we have friends supporting us in all of this.

“By and large New Zealanders of all walks of life have shared their lives with us and we live happily together. Most importantly we must remain united and are glad of people of other faith groups coming together with us and praying for us, which brings us great solace and comfort at this time.”

Micah Australia Executive Director the Revd Tim Costello made a video response to controversial remarks by Queensland Independent Senator Fraser Anning blaming Muslim immigration to NZ for the Christchurch mosque attack. Senator Anning’s remarks have been widely criticised, including in the Muslim world.

Mr Costello said empathy, love, justice and getting to know people were the way to deal with fear.

“Micah Australia is particularly distressed with Fraser Anning’s co-opting the words of Jesus,” he said.

“He [Senator Anning] took Jesus’ words, ‘Those who live by the sword will die by the sword’, to say the very opposite of what Jesus meant.

“Jesus was saying to Peter: ‘Put down your sword. We do not believe in violence. I have taught you, love your enemy. Even your enemy carries the image of God.’

“Therefore, to distort the words of Jesus is absolutely despicable based on fear.”

Mr Costello said that when Jesus was quoted, Christians believed they must speak out. Micah Australia believed empathy, that everyone carried the image of God and getting to know people personally were fundamentally what the Christian Gospel was about.

“Stand with us as we seek in these terrible times to overcome fear, to overcome hate.”

A NZ member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and the WCC’s General Secretary both condemned the attack.

The Revd Ray Coster, from the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa NZ, said: “We share with sisters and brothers in the wider ecumenical family our pain and grief in one of New Zealand’s darkest hours and crave their prayers for the many Muslim families grieving at this time.

“Some of these families may be migrants or refugees. They are part of us. Many came seeking refuge and safety as Aotearoa New Zealand is perceived as a safe place. As a nation we value compassion, kindness and tolerance.  What we have seen today has no place in our culture.”

WCC General Secretary, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said: “This terrible crime against women, men and children at the time of their prayers is an attack on all believers and an assault on the bonds of shared humanity and peaceful coexistence which unite us all. The WCC stands in solidarity with all Muslims at this time, especially the Muslims of Aotearoa New Zealand, and expresses the strongest possible condemnation of these actions and of the hateful and dangerous ideologies that stand behind them.”

Dr Tveit said the massacre was an attack on the whole nation and its values of inclusion and respect for all its citizens.

“At this time the WCC reiterates its long-standing commitment to dialogue and harmony with the Muslim communities of the world,” he said. “We affirm to all our Muslim friends and partners that we utterly reject such actions and call on all Christian people to follow in the way of Jesus Christ by seeking to live in peace and respect with all our neighbours, and especially committing ourselves to the protection of vulnerable minorities.”                           [with ACNS, Anglican Taonga]