The Earth, our Mother and our Child

“Lord, you have made so many things!
How wisely you made them all!
The earth is filled with your creatures.
There is the ocean, large and wide,
Where countless creatures live.”
Psalms 104: 24-25

When God made the humble butterfly, I wonder whether it was while painting its wings in bursting watercolours, or if it was while teaching it to fly, that God decided to give butterflies the ability to stop time itself. I wonder if butterflies know their power. Such a small creature can transform a mind filled with a chaotic storm of thoughts and emotions to a calm river. Never has there ever been a person that has not caught themself stopping whatever task it was that was occupying them only to watch this graceful insect dance in the air before them.

And I wonder if it was while God was planting the Lebanese cedars that God decided to loan it wisdom. Or was it while shaking the snow off its branches that God decided to give it age and grace beyond human capacities. I often ponder what the cedars would show us if they could. I wonder if they remember all the wars, the invasions and independances. Did God give us the cedars as a sign of solidarity? That no matter snow or shine, regardless of if there is war or peace, like the cedars, God would remain?

And the soil beneath our feet; why did God decide it necessary to give the earth a foundation to grow on? Why must we bury seeds in the dirt to grow a rose? Why can we not grow a garden on a rock or in a pond? I wonder if God was trying to tell us that things can only grow from a place that has been nourished with the right things. I wonder if that is a metaphor for our very souls; that we as people can only grow if we prepare ourselves for growth – if we place ourselves in an environment that will allow us to grow.

Finally, do you not think it funny that God, a fountain of boundless knowledge – who knew we would destroy such a perfectly crafted world – would still decide to place it in our hands? It is like spending hours burning and moulding sand into a crystal glass, and then placing it in the hands of a toddler and expecting it not to break. But God trusted us. Even though God knew the world could very well break within our hands, God also knew the world could be made to grow in those same hands. We are a people of growing knowledge; and we have been gifted with the ability to learn and create.

So may someone tell me why in the process of leading the human race to the future, we have left the earth that we call home, behind? The earth loved us before we were civilised, so why have we disrespected it in return? If not for ourselves and for the future generations, we should at least respect our God enough to look after the world that God loved into existence.

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”
(Genesis 1:31)

Jennifer Khoury

Freedom of Speech

In this season of Pentecost, we are reminded that the Holy Spirit has been sent to give us the wisdom to take the message of Christ to the world. As Christians, the right to practice our faith is important, however with that right comes a responsibility. Even if the world allows us to say whatever we want, as Christians, we need to be guided by the Holy Spirit and discern how we say things and when we choose to say them. In this season of Pentecost we can reflect on the fruits of the Holy Spirit and use them to guide our speech.

Love

St Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13 that we can do many things, but if they are done without love, they are pointless.

“If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

Christian preaching is worthless without love. It is our love which will inspire others to Christ, not our judgement. Condemnation of people is not going to bring people to Christ. God transforms in love, not in fear.

Joy

Christianity is not going to be attractive if the people in it are morally outraged, full of self-righteousness, judgmental, fearful and closed up on themselves. We must resist anger and the language of moral decline. The joy of the Gospel is for everyone and no one is excluded.

Peace

Peace comes from relying on God. We need to avoid getting caught up in anxiety for the future, of losing our rights and way of life. Christians trust God to provide for them. From the beginning the central message to Adam and Eve was that God in his divine glory had given them choice. He gives us the choice to choose Him. Many did not believe Jesus was the Messiah because they expected someone who would come and overthrow the present kingdom, the government of the time. Jesus consistently taught that his Kingdom was not the kingdom of this world.  He resisted temptation in the wilderness when Satan showed him all the kingdoms of earth and offered them to him to rule.  Jesus did not come with armies or rule by forcing his views, morals and doctrines on anyone. He came in peace.

Patience

What is the point of saying to someone who does not share your Christian views – Doesn’t anyone believe in marriage anymore? The truth is many people don’t believe in Christian marriage and they have not done so in a long time. What is the point of telling people they are going to hell when they don’t even believe in hell? God has allowed us all the freedom to choose. Patience requires us to have a knowledge of our own imperfections and our need for God’s mercy and forgiveness and to accept that others have a right to examine their own imperfections and make their own choices.

Kindness

Our actions are in the spotlight right now, including how we speak and how we treat people. Kindness is the willingness to give to others beyond what we owe them, even if we don’t agree with them.

Goodness

Avoid evil yourself and embrace what is right. People are only going to be attracted to something that they see is working. They need to be inspired by the way you live your life in Christ. If you are living your own life as a true Christian and you are loving both your neighbour and strangers, people are going to be attracted to that.

Perseverance

Do not be easily provoked. We are witnessing amongst a section of our Christian community a growing fear about the world. We are witnessing knee jerk reactions. Don’t fear the secular world and the things happening in it, rather remember that everything is an opportunity to bring Christ into the midst.

Mildness

Christ Himself, said “I am gentle and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29). Don’t let anger and rashness cause you to say things you will regret. Take your time, be gentle and forgiving rather than angry. Be gracious rather than vengeful. Do not insist on always having your own way and choose your moments carefully. The need to win the argument in the short-term can lead to us actually losing it in the long run. A discussion that descends into argument, debate and personal attacks will not bring anyone to Christ. Listening to and understanding the other person’s view, even if you don’t agree with it, is the key to unlocking what it is you need to say to that person in that moment. There are times when it is actually prudent to say nothing. The need to have the last word in this moment may cause hurt and drive people away forever. Think beyond the need to win and be patient.

Faith

Faith requires us to live our lives in accordance with God’s will at all times. As Pope Francis has warned, be careful of turning the faith into an ideology because when we do:

“The faith passes, so to speak, through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements.”

Modesty

Being modest means humbling yourself and being just as powerless as God. Modesty requires us to resist the temptation to coerce, rather it allows us to slowly unveil the beauty and the truth of things without imposing them.

Self-Control

We need to exercise moderation in all things. We must be prudent about when and how we speak and not provoke others to anger. Self-control sometimes requires us not to speak at all, but rather listen. Listening will often lead us to improving ourselves.

Chastity

We are not called to simply indulge in our physical desires and succumb to what we need to say in that moment. If you are speaking about Christ, start by speaking about who Christ is and that he came for all of our salvation. He came to heal, forgive and free us. Don’t start by telling people Christ came to condemn them. Don’t indulge in your own self-righteousness, be prepared to listen and allow the Spirit to work through you to properly discern the right time to speak and the right words to say.

Prophet Amos – 17 June

Amos was one of the twelve minor prophets and was active during the rule of kings Jeroboam II and Uzziah in c. 760-755 BCE. Amos preached in the northern Kingdom of Israel, he preached against the increased gap between the rich and poor. The book of Amos is attributed to him.

Before he was called by God, Amos was a herdsman and Sycamore fig farmer. Amos is the first of the prophets to document the messages he received. He wished to preach in Bethel, where there was a royal sanctuary, although he was denounced by the head Prophet_Amos_Hand-Painted_Orthodox_Icon_2priest Amazuah to King Jeroboam II and was advised to leave the kingdom. Although, this did not discourage him, he began to write his messages so that if they were not heard, they were read.

Some themes of Amos’ Teachings

A God for all

Amos believed and preached that God was not only the God of Israel but for all around the world and this meant that all Men and Women were equal no matter what nation they belonged too, rich and poor alike.

Being a good Christian

Amos also preached that being just and exercising morals is more important than ceremonial worship.

“I hate; I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.  Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
 I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.
But let justice roll on like a river,
 righteousness like a never-failing stream!

Amos 5:21-24

Dependence on God

Amos express that we need God in order to live, God gives us a purpose in life.

This is what the Lord says to Israel: “Seek me and live…”

Amos 5:4


Christina Maksisi

 

 

St Antonia and St Alexander – 9 June

Saint Antonia and Alexander were Christian martyrs in 313 from the town of Cardamon, with a similar story to Saints Theodora and Didymus.

The Roman emperor at the time was Diocletian, wanted to increase the number of native born Roman citizens, by criminalising intentional celibacy among women. All Roman women of suitable age were ordered to marry and produce children. At the same time Emperor Diocletian persecuted Christians. 

alexanderantoniaWomen who refused to be married were forced to work at a brothel. Antonia was sent to a brothel upon refusing to marry. Alexander was a Christian soldier who disguised himself at the brothel and asked for Antonia. He did not wish to rob her of her virginity but rather save her. He traded clothes with her in order for her to escape. Soon after, Alexander was captured and both Antonia and Alexander were burnt alive. 

Their feast is celebrated in the Maronite church on June 9. It may be possible that they were given these names to tell their story, or that the story might be of Saints Theodora and Didymus, although this is not certain. Regardless, this is a story of great faith and martyrdom. 

Lord, we pray that we have the strength to do what is right, to keep our faith in you always. Let us not be discouraged by others, and remain strong in our faith. 

Christina Maksisi

Novena to the Holy Spirit for Son or Daughter

OPENING PRAYER 

Lord before your Ascension you promised to send the Holy Spirit to finish your work on earth. As we wait these nine days for Pentecost, I pray for my child/children and call on the Holy Spirit to renew the heart of my son/daughter <name>. Help him /her to adore your beauty and bask in your truth. Guard my child and help him/her to seek you and know what is from you. Holy Spirit, come fill my child <name> with your gifts;

– Wisdom to keep God central in her/his life.  

– Understanding to comprehend God’s message.

– Knowledge to allow God to be revealed in his/her life

– Counsel to see the best way to follow God’s plan in his/her life.

– Fortitude to know what is right.

– Piety to pray to God in true devotion.

– Fear of you Lord and may (name) stand in amazement before God, who is all-present.

Help <name> to be one of your true disciples and protect him/her all the days of his/her life

FIRST DAY: For all the gifts
God, you have created <name> in your image and he/she has been baptised in your Spirit. Send forth from heaven your Spirit on <name>. Fill <name> with the gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and a fear of you Lord. Help <name> to come alive in all these gifts, that he/she may serve you well all the days of his/her life. Amen.

Pray 1 “Our Father”, 1 “Hail Mary”; 1 “Glory be” AMEN

SECOND DAY: The Gift of Wisdom
Come Holy Spirit and fill <name> with wisdom, and reveal to his/her soul your mystery. Teach him/her to love you Lord above the things of this world.  Help him/her to glorify you by always choosing what is right especially during temptations, trials, and all the daily challenges that he/she faces in this world. Instil in him/her a desire to live up to the ways of God always.  Amen.

Pray 1 “Our Father”, 1 “Hail Mary”; 1 “Glory be” AMEN

THIRD DAY: The Gift of Understanding
Come Holy Spirit and fill <name>, with understanding. Enlighten his/her mind that he/she may accept and believe in the Lord’s salvation. May <name>, stay on the path leading toward heaven. Give my child the ability to discern what is right and enlighten him/ her to understand the truth of the faith.  Amen.

Pray 1 “Our Father”, 1 “Hail Mary”; 1 “Glory be” AMEN

FOURTH DAY: The Gift of Knowledge
Come Holy Spirit and fill <name> with knowledge. Grant that he/she may know the will of God in all things.  Enlighten his/her mind to understand the meaning and purpose God has for him/her and to live up to that meaning. Amen.

Pray 1 “Our Father”, 1 “Hail Mary”; 1 “Glory be” AMEN

FIFTH DAY: The Gift of Counsel
Come Holy Spirit and fill <name> with good counsel. Help guide him/her in all his ways, that he may always do your holy will. Move his/her heart to what is good and direct my child on the path of your commandments and towards the goal of eternal life. Inspire and guide <name> to live the truth of the faith. Amen.

Pray 1 “Our Father”, 1 “Hail Mary”; 1 “Glory be” AMEN

SIXTH DAY: The Gift of Fortitude
Come Holy Spirit and fill <name> with fortitude. Protect his/her soul in times of struggle. Sustain his/her efforts in holiness. Allow him/her to discern and stand against what is wrong. May my child never be separated from you Lord.  Amen.

Pray 1 “Our Father”, 1 “Hail Mary”; 1 “Glory be” AMEN

SEVENTH DAY: The Gift of Piety
Come Holy Spirit and fill <name> with piety. Possess his/her heart. Enkindle in her/him a desire to worship you Lord and serve you in love. Purify and humble him/her and allow my child to live only in you. Amen.

Pray 1 “Our Father”, 1 “Hail Mary”; 1 “Glory be” AMEN

EIGHTH DAY: The Gift of Holy Fear
Come Holy Spirit and fill <name> with the fear of the Lord. Penetrate his/her heart so that he/she may prefer the Lord above all else.  Allow my child to understand God’s greatness. Inspire my child to serve the Lord and to walk with Christ always. Amen.

Pray 1 “Our Father”, 1 “Hail Mary”; 1 “Glory be” AMEN

NINTH DAY: The Fruits of the Holy Spirit
Come Holy Spirit, give me courage to raise this child of mine in the warmth of your flame. Let my heart be glad and my tongue rejoice. Make known to me the path of life and through my child fill me with joy in your presence. Amen.

Pray 1 “Our Father”, 1 “Hail Mary”; 1 “Glory be” AMEN

Saint Simeon the Younger

A Stylite is a Christian ascetic who lives on top of a pillar or column, they spent their time standing, exposed to rain, wind and any other natural weather. They stood preaching to those who come to seek their wisdom. The first Stylite to climb a pillar to remain in seclusion from the rest of the world was Saint Simeon, the elder whose feast is September 1. Saint Simeon the elder should not be confused with Saint Simeon, the younger, whose feast is celebrated on May 24.

Saint Simeon the Younger was attracted to the community of ascetics and sought spiritual direction from a pillar hermit named John. From a young age, Simeon had a pillar built where he would stand to pray and fast, he remained there for more than 68 years. Simeon was ordained a priest and would conduct mass from the pillar and his disciples would climb up a ladder to receive communion. There were a large number of miracles attributed to Saint Simeon, the younger. During the last years of his life he spent his time on a column near Antioch on a mountain named “Hill of Wonders” because of his miracles, and this is where he died.

We learn from the Stylite’s that prayer and fasting is crucial for us to grow spiritually in our faith. We pray that we learn from the Ascetic’s and integrate prayer and fasting into our lives more often.

Christina Maksisi

Read about what a Stylite is here.

https://livingmaronite.com/resources/what-is-a-stylite/

 

 

 

St Rita

Saint Rita’s feast is celebrated on May 22 in the universal church.

Saint Rita is a patron for many women, including women enduring hardships of marriage, motherhood, domestic violence and more. She lived her life always praying and finding hope in God for many of the challenges she faced. 

Rita was born in the year 1381 in the village of Roccaporena, near Cascia, Italy. From a young age she was drawn to the Augustinian nuns in Cascia although her parents had arranged for her to marry. In obedience to them she was married and spent 18 years in a challenging marriage, as her husband was cruel and harsh, often becoming abusive towards her. Through faith and constant prayer, Rita was able to convert her husband into a better person.  Her husband’s family was one of the two Aristocratic families in the 14th century and consequently her husband was murdered by the opposing family. Rita feared that her sons would seek revenge, she tried hard to guide them and was unable to convince them, so she prayed to save their soul and that God would take her sons before they committed any sin, her sons fell sick and died before committing any crime. 

After the deaths of her husband and sons, Rita sought to enter the monastery of Saint Mary Magdalene in Cascia but was turned away as the nuns were afraid of being associated with the family feud that had her husband murdered. Rita prayed and was persistent until she was permitted to enter the Augustinian monastery. She lived a prayerful life in the monastery and strongly desired to suffer with Christ. At age sixty, while praying before the crucifix she received a visible wound on her forehead. She bore this suffering with Christ for the next fifteen years and offered up her pain for others. The last four years of her life, she was confined to her bed, a relative from her hometown visited Rita and when asked what she desired, she only requested a single rose from her parents’ garden. Although, the roses were not in bloom in January, the woman returned to find one single rose in the garden and brought it back to Rita who was grateful. Henceforth, Saint Rita became associated with roses and impossible causes. 

Novena-to-Saint-Rita

Rita died peacefully at age seventy-six on May 22, 1457. She lived a difficult life but remained hopeful in the Lord. Rita prayed and had faith in God.

We pray that Saint Rita will intercede for all those suffering hardships in their lives, may they find comfort in the Lord. 

In our life we may come across people who are suffering, one common Christian response to them is to endure the suffering like the saints did. While we must all strive to be like the saints, they are from a different time. Rita endured her suffering as she had no other means to find help and the society she lived in did not have the sufficient support she would have needed to deal with family violence. As Christians we are called to help those who are most vulnerable within the community. No one should remain in their struggle when in our modern society we have so many resources to help. 

In Australia there are many services ready to help

1800RESPECT

1800 737 732 is a 24 hour national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk.

Christina Maksisi

Saint Timothy and Mora – May 3

Saint Timothy and Mora, a married couple who suffered persecution for their faith.

Timothy, a deacon from Upper Egypt was charged with possession of Christian books, the emperor ordered to be confiscated and burned. Timothy was tortured and this resulted in his loss of his eyesight. Timothy gave thanks to God for the torture and remained faithful. His wife Mora was also brought in and to be tortured. Mora also endured the suffering with joy and also thanked God. Seeing the great faith the couple had, the governor Arian ordered them both to be crucified. They hung on crosses facing one another for ten days.

Saint Moura is well venerated in the Maronite Church. Several churches have been dedicated to the Martyr in Lebanon, including a monastery in Ehden. It is in this monastery that the Lebanese Maronite Order was founded in 1694 by three Maronite young men from Aleppo, Syria under the patronage of Patriarch Estephan El Douaihy.

On this feast, we pray for married couples, may their union be strengthened by your love. Guide them in their struggles and protect them from things that may divide their marriage. Bringing them together in your name, may Saint Timothy and Mora be an example of a good Christian marriage, trusting one another in even the toughest trials they face.

Christina Maksisi

Why Trust Jesus? The testimony of a victim of Domestic Violence

WARNING: This article deals with difficult issues concerning domestic violence.  Some readers may have experienced or witnessed domestic violence and reading this may vividly bring back buried memories.  If this applies to you, please consider your own wellbeing and whether you should continue reading.  If you are in an abusive situation or know someone who is, (Australia) call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or Domestic Violence Help Line (1800 656 463). (USA) – 1−800−799−7233. (Canada) http://endingviolencecanada.org/getting-help/

I interviewed a victim of Domestic Violence and how she still trusts Jesus, despite the evil she has been through. Without further ado, here is her testimony. Her identity will remain anonymous.

Mum and dad were always fighting. He would hit her. I got caught in the crossfire. I would become bruised and I covered it with makeup.

I started to cut myself. I became depressed. My family stopped talking to each other. I felt like I needed punishment for making my family fight. But the cutting didn’t last long. I realised it was wrong.

When I tried to get advice from other people, they would say ‘that’s your parents business, don’t get involved, this is very common, everyone does this’. I was repeatedly told to pray on it. I did.

I felt that it did not help, I found that people didn’t like to talk about it, it was taboo. I needed to let it out, I needed someone to talk to. Everyone kept silencing me. I felt like no one could ever understand what I was going through.

We went to Lebanon. There was 1 priest who kept watching me. He called me over. I said cheerfully ‘Hi Abouna (Father)’. He looked at me and asked why he can feel waves of anger coming out like heat from me. I burst into tears. He told me I needed to forgive. I needed to be like Christ and forgive. The priest said I should never force someone to love me. Jesus never forced anyone. He only gave the opportunity for people to love him. This day I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders.

I went to Adoration back home. I felt calm, safe. Adoration built my trust in Christ and his will. I was in the dark all those years.

Dad recently flipped it over virtually nothing. He held my mum to the wall. He raised his hand to hit her. I got in between them. He started to choke me. He dragged me to the balcony and nearly threw me over. I screamed, and my sibling pushed him off me. My life and my mum’s life were in danger. This is when we took action. We became fed up with the abuse. He is gone now.

My family started talking to each other about our experiences. We started to open up about our wounds. My mum said she wished she did this sooner. I wished we never put up with the abuse.

It helped us heal and grow together. We are closer than ever.

I realised that talking about it with people who had gone through the same thing helped me a lot.

I trust Christ to lead us out of this. I tried my way (give him space and let him come back to us), the hard way (forcing him to be good), but the only way that worked was God’s way, leaving it in God’s hands. We have moved on from him. My way and the hard way did not work. Christ is the only hope I have.

I was asked how can I still trust Jesus after all of this? I thought of when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane. He wanted his Father to take the cup of suffering from him. Then he trusted God in his will and accepted the cup. If Christ can trust God in his grand plan, then I can trust God in his plan for me. I accept the cup offered to me.

– Emily Dib

I will be your voice

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Copyright Shaun Yeo

I am presently blissfully on spiritual retreat and on a social media ban for Lent. As the horror in New Zealand was unfolding, I was very grateful that I was not on social media. It was going to be easy to ignore it and the vitriol that came with it. Then, after midnight, I received an open letter from a Muslim friend.

She asked me to keep her identity anonymous and I will respect that because I know what she has been through. We met while we were studying. I am a Christian and she is a Muslim and we immediately connected. It was like we had lived the same life. We were wives and mothers. We had pursued education and we had achieved in our careers. We were both women of faith who worked within our own communities. We immediately understood each other’s experiences without the need for any explanation. We knew what it was like to be marginalised by society based on our ethnicity and what it was like to be marginalised by some from within our own community because we were women who had an opinion.  We both knew what it was like to be ridiculed by some in secular society for being women of faith.

Then one morning it became clear that her burden, as a Muslim woman in Australia, was much heavier than mine could ever be. I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and her face popped up. It was odd, why was her face on my feed? I clicked on the post and my gentle, kind, intelligent and caring friend was being vilified as a Muslim extremist who was allegedly inciting all sorts of ridiculous things.  What was worse was that it was coming from someone within my own community. I was mortified. I had read her work, the work they were speaking of. She was no terrorist, in fact her work was considered, loving and important. I wrote to the author of the post and told him she was my friend and this was not true and asked him to take the post down. He was surprised she was my friend and said he himself did not know her and had not read her book, but that was what he had ‘heard’. I wrote to her to check she was ok. In the following months it became clearer to me she was not ok. Previously she would write and speak openly in the Australian media and she was now silenced in fear. She could no longer take the violence and hate that would be aimed at her young family and at her whenever she wrote something. It was not going to matter what she wrote, she had been targeted. You cannot dialogue with hate and you cannot dialogue with trolls.

Even as I am writing this, I know the vitriol that will follow. What about Christian lives? Don’t they matter? What about all the times they have hurt “us”. Labels will be thrown at me with an expectation that I defend myself publicly and deny them – you are a leftist, feminist, heretic and whatever else.

Over the following months I continued to watch horrified as my Muslim friend was vilified, including by some in my own community. I sometimes sent her messages to check on her, but I also retreated into silence and avoided a defence of her. It was easier.

This morning I have decided that today is not a day for retreat and today is not a day for silence. I ask you to read my friends own words of how she is feeling. For all those who have ever had a view about how evil Islam is or how evil Muslims are, either on social media or in the secrecy of the walls of your own home, this is a reminder that your views and words have wider consequences. Hate breeds hate, fear breeds fear and today as individuals and as a nation we must take a collective responsibility for our words, for every time we have vilified the ‘other’, for every time we have failed to speak up for those who have been silenced and for all those times we have remained silent in the face of wrong. To my friend, I will lament with you like the Kiwi in that cartoon and in all this grief, brokenness and hurt there is hope. I was so proud to see my own Bishop standing with Muslim religious at Lakemba Mosque last night. Today, I will stand with you also and share your voice with the world, because I know you can’t.

Dear Mr Morrison and Mr Shorten

I am an Australian Muslim woman.  I am highly educated and hold a professional job. I spend a great deal of my time working with the Australian legal system. I am a wife.  I am a mother.  And tonight, I am frightened, anxious and so very sad.

The tragedy that has occurred in Christchurch has pierced a hole in my heart that I cannot actually close.  The grief is deep. These innocent people were simply praying when massacred by a man that had a deep disdain and hatred for them, not because they said or did anything but simply because they were Muslim.

Watching the images and hearing the eyewitness accounts are beyond traumatic.  We have shed tears and expressed our hurt but most of us have something in common. As hard as it is to say this we are not surprised or shocked.

Why?

Because we have lived with this fear for a long time now.  Genuine fear that our lives are at risk simply because we are Muslim.  I am someone who has received death threats, been vilified through the tabloids, subject to petitions to remove me from my employment and regularly receive hate mail because I am Muslim. So perhaps the threats hit close to home.  I also have had the opportunity to research and present about Islamophobia in Australia and know full well the experiences of many Muslims who are attacked and vilified because of their faith.

Our fear does not exist in a vacuum.  It resides and is increased in a society where our leaders sit in a parliament where it is ok to call Islam a “disease”, where it is ok to refer to a ‘final solution’ when talking about Muslim presence in society, where it is ok to wear and ridicule our religious attire as if it is nothing more than scrap material, where it is ok to say that we made a ‘mistake’ to let Muslims come to this country in the 1970’s, where it is ok to say that Muslims don’t condemn terrorism even though Muslim leaders have issued more statements condemning terrorism than they have on any other topic.  Where it is ok to make Muslims feel that they do not belong!

Our fear is not created because we ask for it. Many say if you wear hijab or write about Muslim issues then this is all part of the territory – well is it?

Toughen up they say, be resilient, this happens to all new migrants and soon it will be another group that gets picked on.  Those comments don’t reflect our society they say, Australia is not a racist country and after all you can’t be racist towards Muslims because Islam is not a race.

I don’t care what you call it – racism, islamophobia or xenophobia – tonight these terms are meaningless to me! They don’t help me talk to my teenage children about these attacks, they don’t help me to stop their pain as they try to make sense of why the country they are born in sometimes doesn’t feel like home.  They also don’t help me explain how after today’s events a Senator can use an Australian parliamentary letterhead to blame Muslims for being killed!

Prime Minister and Mr Shorten, it was great to see you say the right things today but also very painful.  So many people today genuinely seemed shocked. How do you deal with a situation where the attacks were clearly anti-Islamic and not even the media outlets could mask it? This was a terrorist attack from a right-wing extremist.

Why couldn’t you realise that when you failed to call out the attacks on Muslims, when you used dog whistling rants to fuel your election prospects and when you failed to show courage in the face of shock jocks who demonise Islam that this is where we would end up! Let me clearly say that I am not laying the blame for the attacks at anyone’s feet other the perpetrators, but that does not mean that I cannot call out the context that allows such views to flourish. A context in which we dehumanise Muslims simply because of their faith.

Isn’t it time that we realised that we cannot continue with divisive politics?  Isn’t it time our leaders showed some moral courage and recognised that ‘terrorism’ and ‘violence’ is not a “Muslim” thing but something that will come from a society that lacks understanding and compassion?  Extremism in all its forms needs to be called out.  We need to ensure that we create a society where we all belong, one in which we see past our differences and see our common humanity.

No doubt coming days will see the best of our society come forward and stand in solidarity with Muslims. I have no doubt that we live in the best country on earth. Shoulder to shoulder we will stand strong and not let this tragedy define our society.

But tonight, please understand we are grieving.  Tonight, we cannot stop crying and nothing will ease our pain. Tonight, Prime Minister Morrison and Mr Shorten as you place your heads on your pillow please remember the pain that we are going through. Believe us when we say that we are scared and most importantly please have the moral courage to go beyond the grand statements that are about gaining votes and make a commitment to create a cohesive society where we all feel that we can belong.

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Theresa Simon