HUMANS NEED TO EMBRACE AN INTERFAITH FUTURE
Mother Earth herself is trying to tell us that we need to act fast to save our race
FATHER Michael Lapsley, SSM, director of the Institute for Healing of Memories, was invited to address the Claremont Main Road Mosque congregation during their Friday prayers last week:
“My dear friends, sisters and brothers, I would like to thank my dear brother imam Rashid Omar for inviting me to come and speak once more here in this holy place.
I am especially humbled to be asked to come and speak during the holy month of Ramadaan.
Please be assured of my earnest prayers for you, as you continue the fast.
I come from the Institute for Healing of Memories which seeks to contribute to the healing journeys of individuals communities and nations.
We are a social healing NGO that works globally.
We are very appreciative that imam Rashied is on our board and also that we have increasing collaboration, especially in De Noon between this faith community and ourselves.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the murder in detention of imam Abdullah Haron, who was tortured to death by the apartheid security police in 1969.
It is wrong that his widow still lives without the full truth and accountability of those who were responsible. As an institute we support the call for the inquest to be reopened.
This will also expose the crude lie that his death was partly caused by him accidentally falling down a flight of stone stairs. The imam has asked me to speak today, in particular about Fr Bernard Wrankmore and also about Christchurch.
Father Bernard was an Anglican priest working for the missions in Cape Town, as I am and, of course, New Zealand was the land of my birth, so I have personal connections on two counts. In 1971, two years after imam Haroon had been murdered in detention, Fr Bernard Wrankmore went to the Kramat on Signal Hill and began a fast to demand that the apartheid government open an inquest into the death of the imam.
When he was very weak, some of his close friends persuaded him to give up the fast. On the 40th day of his 67-day fast, Fr Bernard organised an interfaith service to pray for an end to the vicious system of apartheid.
Father Bernard did not know imam Haroon. He was of a different religion and a different colour.
On what basis did he act? His own sense of right and wrong, of justice and injustice, of a common humanity?
Maybe interfaith services had happened before in Cape Town, I don’t know. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful example of interfaith solidarity that foreshadowed a much greater development during the 1980s and 1990s, in particular.
This solidarity was developed not in the classroom, but on the streets, in the trenches of a struggle for human rights and for human dignity.
For people of faith, our commitment to justice comes from the deepest roots of our faith. We believe that we are all children of God and have something of the divine in us.
When we attack another human being we cause spiritual injury to the other person and to ourselves.
Reports tell us that as many as 40 000 people came to the imam’s funeral. At St Paul’s Cathedral London, there was a service held in the crypt organised by Canon Collins who had founded the Defence and Aid Fund to help with the legal defence and assistance of families of political activists who were detained and imprisoned.
Canon Collins described the imam as a martyr. For the first time ever in that cathedral there were Islamic prayers and readings at the memorial.
The imam also assisted the Defence and Aid Fund with the channelling of money to help the families of detainees and prisoners to survive.
Now let me fast forward to Christchurch in New Zealand. Two mosques were attacked by a terrorist.
The response of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was compassionate and defiant. Such violence and terror was beyond the experience of most New Zealanders. Most Kiwis thought that such things happen to other people, not to them and in their country.
Fifty-one people were killed and dozens were injured.
The next day, the prime minister came to Christchurch wearing a hijab declaring that everyone who suffered at the mosque was part of us whether or not recent arrivals. The following Friday, the call to prayer was broadcast live on national radio.
Donald Trump called to ask the prime minister what he could do.
Her immediate response was to tell him that he could reach out to Muslim people everywhere in kindness and compassion.
At a national memorial service a week or so later, the prime minister said: “The world has been stuck in a vicious cycle of extremism breeding extremism and it must end.
“We cannot confront these issues alone, none of us can. But the answer to them lies in a simple concept that is not bound by domestic borders, that isn’t based on ethnicity, power base or even forms of governance.
“The answer lies in our humanity.” The government created a special visa category, so that those who were affected by the attacks can stay in the country if they wish to do so.
This Wednesday the leaders of France and New Zealand unveiled an agreement to combat online extremism.
The so-called “Christchurch Call” is named after the New Zealand city where, in March, a white nationalist gunman killed 51 worshippers at two mosques while live-streaming the massacre on Facebook.
Personally, I greatly appreciated the immediate response of this mosque to the Christchurch attack.
But even more, I felt great pride towards you, as a faith community when you came out immediately with a clear statement after the attacks in Sri Lanka.
We can be equally proud of how dean Michael Weeder and St George’s Cathedral responded on both occasions.
In different parts of the world we have seen during the last year that holy places of the three Abrahamic faiths have suffered terrorist attacks. I’m not excluding other faiths, holy places either.
I’m sure that God weeps, just as my tradition tells me that Jesus wept over Jerusalem.
It is often overwhelming and depressing when we see violence and terror all around us. It is very tempting to be an ostrich.
But let us not fail to see and to be signs of hope. I pray often for myself as I do for you, for guidance and wisdom and for courage.
I have long come to the conclusion that if we want the human family to live together in peace we all need to embrace an interfaith future. Under the leadership of my sister Fatima Swartz, as part of our Restoring Humanity programme we have had a wonderful project called God has many names.
Here in Cape Town we have some of the healthiest interfaith relations anywhere in the world. We have come to know, love and respect each other. If we continue to nurture these relations we can be a light set on the hill.
I read a Facebook response by professor Ebrahim Moosa to the events of both Christchurch and Sri Lanka.
How could it be, he asked, that three of the perpetrators were the sons of one of the wealthiest Muslim families in Sri Lanka. Could it be, he asked with great pain and anguish, that my own child could become an extremist?
As we leave the mosque today we will also have the opportunity and we are invited to have a silent vigil for the victims of the recent terrorist attack against Christians in Burkina Faso. When I read the professors cri de
coeur, it became clear to me that here in Cape Town we need to have courageous conversations in and between our faith communities about the root causes of extremism and the antidotes.
This mosque, St George’s Cathedral, and the institute could help begin these courageous conversations.
Or as the imam has been heard to say, we need to move beyond the dialogue of samoosas and cucumber sandwiches, with apologies for mentioning that during the fast.
If we have a mature love for each other we need to begin to have courageous conversations where we can begin introspection and speak about what is in our faith traditions, which we feel guilty and ashamed of, as well as the treasures of which we are profoundly proud and grateful; what are the treasures of our faith that we can offer each other without needing to proselytise and convert.
If the human family is going to survive we have to nurture and cherish a sense of our common humanity.
If our eyes and hearts are open we all will realise that mother earth herself is trying to tell us that we need to act fast to save our race.
As the tipping point for irreversible climate change and global warming comes, it won’t matter what our faith tradition is, our faith in God may help to galvanise use, it is noteworthy that response to climate change never appeared in the election manifestos of any of the major parties.
As the holy month continues I wish you well and thank you for all your acts of kindness generosity compassion and commitment to justice for all.
My dear friends, my dear sisters and brothers, the time has come for courageous conversations.
Let the courageous conversations begin.”
FATHER Michael Lapsley, director of the Institute for Healing of Memories, addressed the Claremont Main Road Mosque congregation during their Friday prayers last week.
NEW Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a royal commission of inquiry into the massacre of 50 people in two Christchurch mosques. |