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

Cape Argus - - FRONT PAGE -

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.”

| Supplied

FA­THER Michael Lap­s­ley, direc­tor of the In­sti­tute for Heal­ing of Mem­o­ries, ad­dressed the Clare­mont Main Road Mosque con­gre­ga­tion dur­ing their Fri­day prayers last week.

AP

NEW Zealand Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern an­nounced a royal com­mis­sion of in­quiry into the mas­sacre of 50 peo­ple in two Christchur­ch mosques. |

Ebrahim Moosa

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