A great Christian (Hans Kung) once said ‘there will not be peace in the world until there is peace between the religions of the world, and there will not be peace between the religions until religious people meet, understand one another, and work together for peace.’ Recent events, especially in the Middle East, show how true this is. Perhaps in the past it was possible for different religions to ignore one another or to compete, sometimes violently. Today, when people of different faith live next door to each another, we need another way...
Relating to people of different faith is not always easy. Some even wonder whether it can become a betrayal of faith. Yet Christians at least have always had to engage with different faiths and, in Jesus, we have a wonderful model to show us how. For Jesus was renowned for sharing ‘table fellowship’ with all kinds of people and for going beyond his own Jewish faith to meet others. Indeed his model of how to ‘love your neighbour’ was a Samaritan: someone who, for Jews, belonged to the most disliked religion. What matters, Jesus showed, is not what we say about faith, but whether we really know the love of God in our hearts and live it out. For Christian mission involves both generous hospitality to others and sharing the unique gift of Christ.
In Toowoomba we have a marvellous opportunity to model how different faiths can live in peace. Indeed we have a vibrant peace and harmony network. My prayer is that it will grow. For this is not about compromising our faith’s central truths, still less about seeking a common religion, as if that were possible. Christians are most certainly called to evangelism, sharing the distinctiveness of Jesus Christ. Yet we are also called to ‘love our neighbour as ourselves’. We cannot do that without getting to know others. Thereby we may discover we have many things in common and much on which we can work together. For the God of Jesus Christ often moves in surprising ways and our world desperately needs another way.
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.