Greetings to the Muslim Community on the Eve of Ramadan and in response to the Tragedy in Norway

Assalamu Alaykum!

The chaplains at Flinders University of the Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Pagan faiths bring greetings to the Muslim Community at Flinders on the eve of Ramadan.

We recognise the contributions you make to the Australian community and particularly the university community and our sincere hope is that you will be successful in your studies and that those of you who will return to your home nations with carry full and content memories of your time in Australia.

We bring our best wishes to you as you enter this special time of fasting and remembrance of those in need amongst us.

In this last week we have heard news of a tragedy in Norway in which a fanatic, who has called himself a Christian, has destroyed buildings in Oslo with a bomb, and gone on to slaughter innocent young people who were camping on a nearby island. It took no time at all for newspapers to assume that the bomb was the work of Muslim extremists. They were wrong.

Some of you come from countries where such acts of violence are a present reality. But this is Norway’s first taste on their home soil.

On Saturday afternoon, Norwegian students will gather to mourn their loss and confront their grief. They and their families are the ones in need of your prayers today and during Ramadan.

As Chaplains we pledge that Oasis is, and will remain, a focal point on this campus for the open and honest acceptance of people of good will regardless of faith, and the promotion of the tolerant, accepting Australian society we believe in and strive for. We remain pledged to the principles of cooperation and dialogue, to extending warm hospitality and understanding to all who use our facility for prayer, for worship, for study, for scholarship, and for cultural promotion. We are enriched by your presence.

Assalamu Alaykum!

Dom Helder Camara and the Arab Spring Uprising.

Dom Helder CamaraI had the good fortune to meet Dom Helder Camara, Archbishop of Olinda and Recife in north-east Brazil, in the 80’s.

He lived with no lock on his door. The incident of the hit-man from the military government, who had come to kill him in the night, being overpowered by his welcoming embrace and deep spirituality, is a legend. He was a man of considerable moral impact! As an aside, he mentioned that while in Australia, away from his diocese, he expected priests at home to be killed and bull-dozers demolish villages, as had happened when he travelled in the past.

Camara would rise at two in the morning to read and write poetry. There was not a square centimetre of his face that was not lined with grief for the sufferings of his people or instantaneously creased by his puckish beneficent smile. His eyes were dark and playful, sunk deeply into dark sockets. He looked physically dead, only an indomitable spirit keeping him from the grave by a whisker.

I can’t remember what he spoke of that day, but the impact of his image and his compassion for human justice remains.

Today I picked up a book of his from a second hand book table. “Spiral of Violence” was written over forty years ago, yet its message is as clear today. It brought to mind the recent “Arab Spring Uprising”.

 If true development implies the development of the whole person and of all people, then there is not in fact a single truly developed country in the world…You will find that everywhere the injustices are a form of violence. One can and must say that they are everywhere the basic violence, Violence No.1.

No-one is born to be a slave. No-one seeks to suffer injustices, humiliations and restrictions. A human being condemned to a sub-human situation is like an animal – an ox or a donkey – wallowing in the mud.

Now the egoism of some privileged groups drives human beings into this sub-human condition, where they suffer restrictions, humiliations, injustices; without prospects, without hope, their condition is that of slaves.

This established violence, this violence No.1, attracts violence No.2, revolt, either of the oppressed themselves or of youth, firmly resolved to battle for a more just and human world.

When conflict comes out into the streets, when violence No.2 tries to resist violence No.1, the authorities consider themselves obliged to preserve or re-establish public order, even if this means using force; this is violence No.3. Sometimes they may go even further…in order to obtain information, which may indeed be important to public security, the logic of violence leads them to use moral and physical torture – as though any information extracted through torure deserves the slightest attention!…It is the old Inquisition, with the technology of the nuclear and space travel age at its service.

Let us have the honesty to admit, in the light of the past and, perhaps, here and there, in the light of some typical reactions, that violence No.3 – governmental repression, under the pretext of safeguarding public order, national security, the free world – is not a monopoly of the under-developed countries.

There is not a country in the world which is in no danger of falling into the throes of violence.

With this in mind, I commend to you our work at Oasis with students from all over the world, seeking to live as a community of difference, at peace within itself, and at work for peace in the world.