If remembrance reflects identity, let’s beware what we forget

Remembrance Day last week was highlighted by a preponderance of 11s – 11/11/11 at 11am – and reminds us that the events of time and space are not only measured by dates and location but by our less exacting recollections.

Memory and identity are in many ways at the heart of Julian Barne’s 2011 Booker Prize winning novel, The Sense of an Ending, which includes character Adrian quoting, ‘History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacy of documentation.’

If that is true, even in part, then all the more reason to have rituals of remembrance so that some things are not lost. Many of the world’s most memorised sayings or occurrences, such as those of the Christian faith, were passed down through oral traditions that perfected remembrance in a way we rarely do today.

Roy Frederick Hallett

One such ritual is Remembrance Day which recalls for us Armistice Day, November 11, 1918 when hostilities ceased on the western front, virtually bringing to and end The Great War. It came too late for my great-uncle Roy who was killed in action on April 4, 1918 at Villers Bretonneax. He was one of 60,000 Australians who died in WWI and one of 11,000 or more whose bodies were never recovered.

The day before Remembrance Day I visited my sister’s grave because even though 17 years have passed since she was killed, we still remember and are still affected by her loss. We have a body, but no explanation as to who killed her and why, and so our remembrance is unsettled to this day.

It made me realise that as a nation, we must have been powerfully affected by 60,000 families all caught in a remembrance of loved ones lost. Even those who had graves to attend and accounts to read, would still have found the deaths of their loved ones hard to reconcile. Maybe our very identity as a people shifted through this mass remembering of those who would not return.

The only known image of Pemulwuy, one of the first Aboriginal leaders to resist white settlement.

And so we remember, through to World War 2 and it’s 40,000 slain Australians and onwards to today, including three more Diggers dying in Afghanistan. And while the casualties of war-time are just a part of the never-ceasing tide of life and death and birth and ageing that we are all part of, it is the sheer enormity of loss of life that these wars brought that stir us to find ways to remember, to acknowledge, to incorporate a sense of who we are through what has occurred.

But I fear that our remembering in this sphere is too often marked by what is forgotten or ignored as by what is recalled. The only number that comes close to the casualties of the two world wars, was that of Aboriginal deaths during frontier conflict across Australia.

While estimates by some writers of up to 100,000 Aboriginal deaths due to conflict with settlers is regarded as too high, many historians agree on a figure of about 20,000 Aboriginal people killed during a relatively short period as British colonisation of this land occurred. Perhaps 1-2000 white people were killed in these same conflicts which were, on more than on occasion, referred to at the time as the Black War or similar.

A mature nation, I believe, would realise that if white remembrance of the losses of war are vital to our sense of identity, healing and balance, then so too, or even more so, that of Aboriginal people. We cannot go back and undo these horrific losses for the first Australians, any more than I can go back and undo the death of great-uncle Roy. We can’t set aside the tide of history that produced colonial powers sweeping the globe any more than we can for the not dissimilar causes of World War 1 and 2.

But we can acknowledge that it happened – that many thousands of Aboriginal people died in attempts to defend their homes and their families and many more were killed in acts of revenge, extermination and ethnic cleansing so that white people would feel safe. We can acknowledge that this was and is brutally hurtful to those left behind and those that followed, and that it had far-reaching consequences then and now.

Are we ready as a modern Australian society to include in Remembrance Day or Anzac Day or Australia Day the idea that there is another great conflict at the heart of Australian identity and it is the one between Aboriginal and European?

It doesn’t mean that conflict need remain. Australia has rebuilt excellent relationships with many previous enemies – not by forgetting, but by remembering and at the same time, choosing to move forward. As to whether, when and how Aboriginal people may want to do this is another matter.

I fear our (white Australian) refusal to acknowledge this war in our past makes it harder for all of us, black and white, to enter into a peace that is authentic, just and durable. We can ignore it, but an unsettled loss rarely goes away on its own. That’s why we stop to remember year by year, so that in time the remembering hurts less and we are able to reflect and learn from our past.

Lest we forget.

John Cleese’s favourite joke

Monty Python‘s fish slapping skit (below) was described by John Cleese, speaking on Seven’s Sunday Night program, as the silliest skit the comedy group ever did.

But when it came to the funniest joke, he offered this, towards the end of the interview:

‘How do you make God laugh? You tell him your plans…’

He was commenting about whether he would be married for a fourth time. In context, the joke suggests that we know so little about what will actually happen in our lives that to tell God what we are planning is hilarious.

But I guess you got it.

Aboriginal standing stones could pre-date Stonehenge

The cultures of Aboriginal Australia have not been well respected or understood by those of us who have arrived in this great land more recently. So many opportunities to learn, understand and work together were missed, and continue to be.

Little by little this is changing, in part to the gradual emergence of research and discovery that is filling in some of the many gaps. One example is research into a standing-stone arrangement in Victoria that may even date Stonehenge. The BBC report begins:

“An egg-shaped ring of standing stones in Australia could prove to be older than Britain’s Stonehenge – and it may show that ancient Aboriginal cultures had a deep understanding of the movements of the stars.

Fifty metres wide and containing more than 100 basalt boulders, the site of Wurdi Youang in Victoria was noted by European settlers two centuries ago, and charted by archaeologists in 1977, but only now is its purpose being rediscovered.

It is thought the site was built by the Wadda Wurrung people – the traditional inhabitants of the area. All understanding of the rocks’ significance was lost, however, when traditional language and practices were banned at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Now a team of archaeologists, astronomers and Aboriginal advisers is reclaiming that knowledge.”

Read more.

The Slap hits TV and may assault your senses

The television adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ 2008 novel The Slap is about to screen on ABC 1 and while it is a best-selling book in Australia and beyond, many of the television viewers will be encountering the story for the first time.

The Slap is an explicit novel – explicit in its treatment of nearly every bodily function and relationship dysfunction you can think of, or prefer not to think of. Oh, and did I mention the abundant use of legal and illicit drugs?

The television adaptation apparently holds little back and if that is the case, many will find reason why they can’t watch it, which is understandable, but a pity that some of the extremes of description were not moderated originally by the author. The story would not have suffered…

But that’s not his style and if you’re not sure if it’s your’s, check out a review of the book I wrote some time ago – it might give you some more insight, or a little more to offer around the water cooler tomorrow.

The Slap book review

Coffee czar bucks Hybel’s global summit

It’s not only Bert and Ernie who have been caught up in the gay marriage debate. One of Amercia’s biggest churches, Willow Creek, led by Ps Bill Hybels, found itself in the eye of the gay-lobby storm during its Global Leadership Summit.

Australian minister, researcher and author, John Dickson, is one of the speakers for the event and has been tweeting about his experience. Another speaker was to be Starbucks chief executive, Howard Schultz, but he cancelled after an online petition condemned Willow Creek as anti-gay – a charge the church denies.

Bill Hybels and Willow Creek have a large following in Australia and have done a great deal to help Christians think about how churches might be more accessible to the un-churched while retaining their core Christian values. Hybels is particularly influential in encouraging church leaders to develop their leadership skills.

In explaining the withdrawal of Schultz, Hybels denied that Willow Creek persecuted gays, as the online petition alleged.

The SMH reports: ‘Mr Hybels said that Willow Creek did expect its members to follow biblical ethics and reserve sex for marriage between a man and a woman, but welcomed worshippers of all backgrounds.

“To suggest that we check sexual orientation or any other kind of issue at our doors is simply not true,” Mr Hybels said. “Just ask the hundreds of people with same-sex attraction who attend our church every week.”

Mr Hybels asked members of the audience to write to Mr Schultz “with genuine Christian love” and say he would be welcome at any future summit.

And in a strange mega-church-Starbucks cross-fertilisation, Starbucks has been printing on its coffee mugs segments from Rick Warren’s best-selling book, A Purpose Driven Life. Warren is the pastor that other well-known American mega-church, Saddleback Community Church in California. Holding very similar beliefs to Willow Creek, it seems Starbucks may be at cross-purposes…

Bert and Ernie just friends, just puppets

Oh, and as for Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street fame? A online petition has been launched calling on the creators of Sesame Street, the Children’s Television Foundation, to allow the two muppets to marry. This follow new laws in New York allowing gay couples to marry.

CTF released this statement in response: “Bert and Ernie are best friends. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street muppets do), they remain puppets and do not have a sexual orientation.”

On ABC radio in Sydney this morning, Adam Spencer came out in support of the marriage of Bert and Ernie using as his justification Miss Piggy’s relentless pursuit of Kermit. In a stunning loss of logic for the mathematical Spencer, he seemed to overlook the fact that Bert and Ernie are Sesame Street characters created entirely for the benefit of children while Miss Piggy is a Jim Henson creation, made for programs aimed at adults more than children. As well, it doesn’t follow that every same-sex relationship – such as life-long friends – has to be, in anyway, homosexual. Or sexualised in any way…

The debate goes on…

Stephen Fry can’t deny the gulf between comfort and pain

As the riots began in and around London, one of the UK’s favourite sons, Stephen Fry, tweeted from the film set of The Hobbit in New Zealand:

 “If I’m honest 12,000 miles away in NZ, I’m not further from Brixton or Tottenham than when I’m at home in London. But my homeland is unhappy”.
Despite nearly 3 million followers on Twitter and having lived in England all his life presumably, Fry is acknowledging the gulf that exists between himself and the millions of disadvantaged, disaffected countrymen and women on his doorstep.
And this from a man who is apparently worldly-wise, intelligent and savvy to the point that his views (and his tweets) are highly prized.
On this occasion what is prized is his honesty. While lamenting what was happening in his country and city, he admitted that he had been removed from the reality of his lowly neighbours. He is no different to many millions of members of the comfortable classes, whether they be in Europe, North America or Australia.
My own experience in the past 10 years has been God’s determined dismantling of my own ivory tower . It was not so much that I didn’t care – I did – it was more that I just didn’t know. I couldn’t have called a poor man my friend, because I didn’t know him.
Now I could do so, by the grace of God, and many of the barriers of arrogance, ignorance and apathy have been challenged. Perhaps these riots are a wake up call to the Stephen Frys and Peter Halletts of the world that we can be far too immersed in our own comfort zones to notice generation upon generation of brokenness reaping an ugly harvest, just around the corner, let alone across the world.
Wake up now, there’s a riot a comin’…

Speaking in tongues comes to ABC news

Speaking in tongues has finally come to ABC News as journalist Amy Simmons investigates why Pentecostalism is “attracting the Sunday masses” and examines the rise of Pentecostalism in a separate story.

The article covers some familiar territory – it seems each new generation of journalist keeps “discovering” the non-traditional traits that have made the Pentecostals the fastest growing Christian movement across the globe in the past century. 

There’s plenty in the article to allow people to make up their own minds about Pentecostal churches and some areas of belief such as healing and speaking in tongues.

Of course, most Pentecostals would rightly point to Jesus as being at the centre of their beliefs and that without a clear understanding of and vital relationship with the Son of God, then the other elements of faith are worthless.

Academic Associate Professor Rick Strelan of the University of Queensland is called on to deliver the “objective expert” view and is reasonable in most of his comments, which is noteworthy in that Pentecostals are not overly accustomed to having their faith and practice discussed in a reasonable way.Read More »

From MasterChef to Q&A – smorgasbord of religious offerings

I’ll admit missing all of these television programs as I was actually busy doing other things (for a change), but it hasn’t escaped me that although atheists are telling us we are no longer religious, religion simply won’t lay down and die.

If reality television is any gauge (let’s include Q&A in that genre for now) then religion sits right at the heart of the public’s psyche – for this week at least.

Amazing Race Australia had contestants carrying crosses through the streets of Jerusalem, MasterChef had the Dalai Lama, Rev Bill Cruse and Rev Tim Costello as guest judges while the ABC’s Q & A last night had a ‘spiritual special’ featuring Christian mathematician Prof John Lennox and perennial religious researcher, John Safran.

And an interesting inclusion in this program was “pentecostal scholar” Jacqueline Grey who lectures in Old Testament studies and is the Academic Dean of Alphacrucis College in Sydney.

Safran follows up tonight with his latest TV series – Jedis & Juggalos: Your Census Guide on ABC TV 1. In preparation for the upcoming Australian census,  John scours the globe and hunts down people who blend spirituality with popular culture. The context for this program is the Australian Atheist Foundation’s billboard campaign urging Australian’s to tick ‘no religion’ on census night. (Also see the comment on this post regarding Judith Lucy’s Spiritual Journey series)

In all of this, one of the most personally challenging situations was MasterChef contestant Kate Bracks’ encounter with the Dalai Lama. Kate is a devout Christian (former teacher of my youngest son) and chose not to refer to the Buddhist leader as Your Holiness. Christian ministers, Rev Cruse and Costello had no such qualms, perhaps being acquainted with various church dignitaries who go by similar titles.

Kate’s view is that there is no one holy but God and presumably she would happily apply the same rule to Christian leaders who might have this included in their title. More power to her.

And while the tide of religion-in-popular-culture will no doubt recede as quickly as it came, we humans are still far more likely to consider there is a God and spiritual reality than not.

Oh, and just when we thought the topic had drifted away, good old Fred Nile stirs up the opposing camps by saying he’ll vote to rescind the NSW government’s public service pay bill unless ethic classes in schools are scrapped. He and many Christians oppose them because they compete with Scripture in schools.

Read the Herald Sun’s report of Kate’s response: Title one ingredient too much for MasterChef contestant.

Fred Nile’s ethic classes demand

Watch the ABC’s Q & A’s ‘spiritual special’.

Check out details of John Lennox’s debate with Peter Singer.

See my previous post re the AFA’s billboard campaign

AmazinGrace carries the cross in Jerusalem

The Amazing Race Australia on Monday, July 18 will feature some of the four remaining teams carrying large wooden crosses through the streets of Jerusalem as part of the episode’s challenges. Check out a preview.

In a city so taut with religious and cultural tensions, it is a daring and perhaps provocative act, that recalls for Christians the crucifixion of Christ.

One of the effects of global tourism is to take long-held cultural, religious and historical events, locations and practices and make them marketable commodities for tourist consumption. While there are respectful ways of doing this, the Amazing Race epitomises the dilemma of rich tourists enjoying foreign lands while running the risk of carelessly trampling upon them.

In this case, a deeply significant religious symbol and act is incorporated into a reality show game in a city which is sacred for three world religions.  It is an ‘amazing’ clash of ‘realities’ and hopefully will provoke thought about the interactions of tourists and destinations; and even more so, about the meaning of ‘carrying your cross’.

The wooden cross (the exact shape is debated, but not important) was used for capital punishment in Roman occupied Israel around the first century AD. Part of the cruelty was at times to humiliate the condemned person by forcing them to drag the heavy implement through the city before they were nailed, tied and hung from it, dying a slow and painful death.

From the film, The Passion of the Christ

The New Testament records this being inflicted on Jesus, after a heavy beating, and is known by some as the passion of the Christ. This term encompasses not just his physical and mental anguish, but spiritual as well.

From a theological perspective, this was God in human flesh, suffering the worst humanity had to offer as identification with us but also as a substitution. Though perfect, he allowed himself to be punished as the worst of criminals and cut off from God so that we might be forgiven and re-connected to God.

So the cross is a powerful symbol of God’s grace extended to all. Perhaps it’s fitting that the show Amazing Race is also AmazinGrace…

At another level, Jesus often used the phrase, ‘carry your cross’ as a way of describing the challenge of following him. This must have been powerful imagery for his first century audience.

They would have seen or heard of the terrible journey through Jerusalem and other occupied cities of cross-laden people, heading for their deaths, under the ruthless eye of their Roman rulers.

To liken the life of a Christ-follower to carrying the cross, was a clear sign that it involved selflessness, vulnerability, suffering, obedience and a stretching of every fibre of being.

Not unexpectedly, it may not be the most popular influence for Christians (or anyone else) when making life choices, but thankfully we have the Amazing Race to bring it back to our attention.

While the cross-bearing exploits in the Amazing Race are a pale imitation of the real event, what’s more important is what we all do without the silent witness of the cross and the call of Jesus to carry it.

You may have never even heard of this call but it resonates through history and awaits your decision. After you watch the show, give the cross more thought…

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. Matthew 16:24-25

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

Lady Gaga describes herself as a ‘traditional Catholic’

After urging her young fans to let their voices be heard in support of gay marriage, Lady Gaga described herself as a traditional Catholic, in an interview with Tracey Grimshaw on Nine’s A Current Affair.

In a remarkable display of pluralism, Gaga saw no conflict with her ‘untraditional’ views on marriage and her identification with Catholicism.

Clearly Ms Grimshaw was less able to undertake the mental gymnastics required and began a line of questioning on religion by suggesting Gaga must be a lapsed Catholic.

Gaga laughed, saying she’d never heard the term and went on to explain she was very traditional, praying every day, praying before every concert.

She reminded her audience of her lyric that says “God doesn’t make mistakes” and linked her Catholicism to her Italian heritage, saying her parents had no objections to her music or concerts.

Overall Lady Gaga came across as an intelligent and talented young woman who displayed the prevailing post-modern views on morality, referring often to her song “I was born this way” as affirmation of people as they find themselves.

While agreeing with the positive impact of encouraging self-acceptance and tolerance of others, the logical extension of the view is the abrogation of personal responsibility allowing murderers and paedophiles to equally claim “I was born this way”.

At the same time, she made it clear that she had taken personal responsibility to change from being “hell on wheels” to having nothing to with drugs or to do anything to jeapardise the relationship she has with her fans.

Previous Gaga post

The Australian promotes John 3:16

20110701-082028.jpgIt’s a rainy night on cold Norton St, but still plenty of diners and movie-goers are about. As I lift the edge of my umbrella to avoid colliding with two boys, one sliding on a wheel in his shoe, my vision slides across a poster and my brain computes iconic numbers and punctuation mark.

The advertisement on the back of a public phone pictures a Bible open to John’s third chapter.

The Australian is canvassing the issue of marriage but I wonder how many will recognise God’s shout-out to humanity contained in that ancient verse near the top of the pictured page.

‘For God so loved… gave his only… whoever believes… everlasting…’

If we don’t start there we’ll never understand anything else God has to say, about marriage or anything else.

Pieters-Hawke and bonds of love and affection

Sue Pieters-Hawke has been in the news this week for an argument with Blanche d’Alpuget, wife of her father, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

The two women have reportedly been at odds over comments about Ms Pieters-Hawke’s mother, Hazel, in d’Alpuget’s biography of Mr Hawke. Hazel is suffering from advanced dementia.

The disagreement occurred at Brisbane Airport last Thursday and the next morning Ms Pieters-Hawke gave an address to HammondCare’s Rehabilitating Aged Conference in Sydney.

Listening to Pieters-Hawke, it was obvious she was passionate about the care of older people, particularly those with dementia.

In describing what she learned in the years spent caring for her mother, Ms Pieters-Hawke said, “My job description while caring for mum… was doing my best to help her maximize her own enjoyment of life. Her subjective sense of happiness and well-being was both the very point of me doing what I did and the ultimate measure of its value.”

As care for older people and the growing incidence of dementia are among the greatest challenges facing our communities, I encourage you to read the rest of my story about Sue Pieters-Hawke’s address. A more passionate advocate you will not find.

Jesus reigns supreme on Facebook

It’s list time at Utterance and first up is a look at the most interesting pages on Facebook, in which Jesus is a clear winner.

Unofficial Facebook resource, All Facebook, records the fan numbers and interactions of dedicated Facebook pages across the globe.

While noting that Justin Bieber had taken a leap forward, the site says that “he is ultimately left in the dust yet again by two religious pages that have spent all of June in the top two spots.”

Basing their list on the number of page interactions (comments, likes etc) All Facebook has Jesus Daily in first place with 1,645,286 interactions in June (5,948,071 fans) followed by The Bible with 1,071,096 interactions (7,609,076 fans).

Justine Bieber came in third with a mere 933,719 interactions (from a massive 29,756,538 fans) followed by Mario Teguh with 838,761 interactions from 4,221,188 fans.

Others in the top 20 include Lady Gaga, Harry Potter, Manchester United and Britney Spears.

But other Christian pages are also found in the top 20 including Jesus Christ in 13th place and Dios Es Bueno (God is good) in 14th. One way or another, Jesus is alive and well in the world of social networking.

Another interesting phenomenon is the influence of the growing use of social media – Facebook in particular – in non-Western nations.

A page called MTV Roadies is in the top 20 thanks to adoring Indian viewers of the reality television show of the same name while in Egypt, We are Khaled Said continues to be a very vocal page of the Egyptian uprising.

Of evangelistic atheists and an everlasting kingdom

Amazing Grace, First version, in "Olney H...

The religification (my word, I think) of atheism is proceeding at pace and is part of an increased push in the Western world to remove Christian belief from public life.

Stephen Fry tweeted today, “If Christians rose up for Passion of the Christ, so humanists, agnostics, atheists etc might RT [re-tweet] the new film The Ledge!”.

The associated website describes The Ledge as, “the Brokeback Mountain moment for atheists, our tipping point, when we finally get the attention we deserve. Although books have put atheists into the intellectual mainstream, The Ledge is the first Hollywood drama to target the broader movie-going public with an openly atheist hero in a production big enough to attract A-list stars. This is unprecedented.”

Christians will notice close parallels with campaigns circulated through churches to rally support for movies such as Passion of the Christ, Amazing Grace, Bella and various other movies that were seen to authentically present Christian ‘heroes’ and messages.

Meanwhile the Atheist Foundation of Australia is launching a campaign to urge Australians to mark their census, ‘No religion’ as a way of limiting the influence of Christian beliefs in politics.

Read More »

John Anderson receives Order of Australia

John Anderson, a devout Christian, Gunnedah farmer and former deputy prime minister in the Howard government, has been appointed an Officer in the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday 2011 Honours List announced by the Governor-General.

The list provides national and formal recognition for many Australians across the nation who have made a significant difference to their communities. Mr Anderson is being recognised for his support of rural and regional  communities,  transport development  and water management initiatives when  in Parliament. Apart from being deputy prime minister. Mr Anderson was leader  of the National Party from  1999 to 2005. He was involved in the  creation of the National Water Initiative  in 2004 and as minister for  transport and regional services established the Australian Rail Track Corporation and the Agriculture Advancing Australia  program.

He was also president of the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship and continues to be a sought-after speaker on issues of faith and society. Earlier this year, Mr Anderson spoke at the Brisbane Lord Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast on the theme, ‘Lose the faith – lose the culture’.

“As a farmer, if you want to grow a good crop, you have to first till the soil in which a crop is grown. The crop of freedom, of democracy, of all of the good things that we take for granted in our lives, is in fact Christianity, and yet our society has moved away from it and so little understands now the soil in which the crops of freedom are grown, that I do not believe we can expect to continue to grow those crops.” Listen to rest of Mr Anderson’s speech on the Australian Christian Lobby site.

Read More »

Most democratic book in the world turns 400

“The King James Version is a Magna Carta for the poor and oppressed: the most democratic book in the world”, said Theodore Roosevelt on the KJV’s 300th anniversary in 1911.

Claimed by some to be the only version which should be read (sorry all you non-English speakers); by others to be outdated and outmoded (too many maidservants and thous); and yet enjoyed by many for its beautiful glimpse into Shakespearean English – the King James Bible is this year turning 400 years old.

This landmark is being celebrated in Australia by a Bible Society exhibition, The Book that Changed the World, that is touring the south east of Australia. It is in Canberra now but very soon will be around the corner in Annandale.

Read the full report at Australian Christian News.

What is your favourite King James Bible quote?

Islamic billboard benefits from Australia’s freedoms

Imagine a large billboard in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan saying, ‘Jesus Christ, greater than Mohammad’. Not going to happen.

Happily, Australia is a land of freedom of speech and religion which is why the Islamic group, MyPeace, is able to display a billboard on one of Sydney’s busiest roads, declaring, ‘Jesus A prophet of Islam’.

My Peace also plans other advertisements to join the first on Victoria Road, with slogans such as ‘Holy Quran – the final testament’ and ‘Muhummad: mercy to mankind’

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the organiser of MyPeace, Diaa Mohamed, as saying the campaign was intended to educate non-Muslims about Islam. He said Jesus was a prophet of Islam, who was to come before Muhammad. ”The only difference is we say he was a prophet of God, and they say he is God,” Mr Mohamed said. ”Is it thought-provoking? Yes, it is. We want to raise awareness that Islam believes in Jesus Christ,” he said.

Interestingly, many Christians use the same tactic (referring to Jesus as part of Islamic tradition) in communicating with people of Islamic faith, but with the reverse conclusion. The pivotal issue being not if you believe in Jesus, but who you believe him to be.

Bishop of South Sydney Rob Forsyth, also quoted by the SMH, rightly points out that the Islamic group is free to express their views and if he could afford it, he would put up billboards countering those of MyPeace and suggested atheists put some up as well, in the spirit of engendering discussion. At some point, we all need to make a decision as to whether Jesus is God or just another man.

Another important discussion would be the relative freedoms of people of different faiths in Islamic countries…

Read the full SMH report
Leave a comment describing your view of the billboard.