Prior to the attack, the citizen of Australia posted a lengthy manifesto to social media, filled with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim themes. He then proceeded to livestream the shooting. Some victims originally hailed from Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
The thing that came to mind immediately is Jesus’ beatitudes. How should Christians react to Christchurch? With mourning, a hunger for justice, and peacemaking. Christians must mourn with their Muslim brothers and sisters, thirst for the perpetrators of this heinous crime to be brought to justice, and put every possible effort into brokering peace in an age of furious tribalism.
I also embrace wholeheartedly the poignant wisdom of Dostoevsky quoted by the Anglican bishop of Wellington, New Zealand: At some ideas you stand perplexed, especially at the sight of human sins, uncertain whether to combat it by force or by humble love. Always decide, “I will combat it with humble love.” If you make up your mind about that once and for all, you can conquer the whole world. Loving humility is a terrible force; it is the strongest of all things and there is nothing like it.
Mark Durie, Anglican pastor from Melbourne, Australia, and author of books on Islam:
Alexander Solzhenitsyn observed that “to do evil, a human being must first of all believe that what he is doing is good.” Brenton Tarrant, the accused Christchurch killer, wrote that his violence was intended to usher in a racial war between whites and immigrants, whom he calls “invaders.”
This law-of-the-jungle genocidal purpose is an utter repudiation of the core of Christianity. Jesus taught the opposite: to love our neighbor as our very selves. In a fitting answer to this hatred, countless expressions of solidarity with the Muslim victims have been coming in from around the globe.
Christians living in Muslim countries today are far more likely to be killed for their faith than are Muslims living in the West, yet the teachings of Jesus are an antidote to dogmas of hatred. The true followers of Jesus will be quick to show compassion and care for the suffering victims of this appalling tragedy.
Admittedly, the shooters did not claim a Christian worldview or motivation, but rather seem to have been motivated by racism, white supremacy, and xenophobia. However, Christians must search their souls for any contribution they might have made to the current shape of our societies’ attitude towards Islam and Muslims.
Our churches are feeding on too many aggressive, polemical, and fearful writings about Islam and Muslims. Many books written by evangelicals in recent years contribute to fear and xenophobia instead of fighting these feelings and reactions with the loving and peaceful attitude that our Lord Jesus taught us and modeled for us.
The church at this juncture has to work aggressively on fighting these perceptions by putting out new research and writing that emphasizes the common ground and heritage of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. We must inaugurate a new trend of thinking and writing that sees Muslims as neighbors, and Islam, its prophet, and its holy book as grounds for dialogue and peace-building in celebration of what unites us and serves as bridges between us. It is on common ground that we will be able to work towards multifaith societies built on coexistence in search for the common good. It is in the context of such societies that we will be able to proclaim the uniqueness of Jesus and his love that attracts us to God and invites us into his salvific Kingdom.
I am just heartbroken for the families—innocent men, women, and children—many of whom fled to New Zealand for refuge, a majority Christian country with all the biblical teaching and injunctions about caring for strangers and the vulnerable. And yet, that was the place 50 of them were slaughtered, in their places of worship. What can anyone, any Christian, say about this except to cry out maranatha (come quickly, Lord!)?
As a Christian, I am very worried about the radicalization of Muslims and the discrimination, persecution, and hatred directed towards Christians around the world. But what troubles me more is the way radical Islam is radicalizing Christians along the way. In fact, it seems to me that radical Islam is now defining Christian witness and filling Christians with fear, hatred, and even violence. This is what deeply troubles me.
I am not sermonizing that Christians should love Muslims. I am troubled about what fear and hatred is doing to our witness—and even more importantly, what it is doing to our congregation members. These are unhealthy emotions which do not hold well for the wellbeing of individual members and the whole body of Christ.
We have to resist the temptation of deploying the same weapons the enemy is using: be it conspiracy theories and outright falsehood to preach fear and hatred, or the use of violence against anyone, least of all the most vulnerable. Otherwise, we become the mirror image of the enemy we say we are fighting.
Rather than demonizing Islam and all Muslims, the church needs to identify and work with Muslim scholars and leaders who oppose the radicals and militants in their midst. Just as the extremist elements within Islam have hijacked the Islamic faith, Christians need to be mindful not to allow extremist fringe groups like white supremacists to highjack the Christian faith and witness.
First, Christians should unequivocally condemn this as a terrorist act that is wrong. No quasi- or weak supporting statements that could be construed as less than condemnation of this act of terror. A verbal full-throated rejection of “white supremacy” is also very important. Let there be no doubt where we stand.
Second, Christians should intentionally reach out and verbally affirm Muslims’ right to worship and their personal support of that as well. This should be a moment to reach out to your Muslim neighbors and invite them to your home and build those bridges.
Third, Christians should stand up against hate speech any time and any place they hear it. Our country’s intense polarization, unrestrained speech, and incivility has created a culture that is destroying all of us. Dehumanizing, labeling, and the belittling of races, religions, and hurting people at the lowest levels of society is the ultimate sin of arrogant and self-centered people. Social media has taken hate to new levels.
Fourth, your church should visit a mosque on Friday and pass out flowers or statements of support. The pastor could also invite the imam to church Sunday and publicly tell him they support their right to religious freedom—and pray for them.