Fear is easy: Love is hard. Thu 30th of Oct.

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[The Bishop's article from the October Church Chronicle]

Fear is easy: Love is hard.

This is the title of a gospel country song by Jason Gray. He knows something about fear because he has suffered from a severe stutter for most of his life and there have been times when he has felt paralyzed by the fear of trying to speak to someone. Life changed radically for him when he discovered that he could sing without any impediment in his speech at all. Now as a successful performer and recording artist, he has learned techniques to control his stutter, but he is the first to admit that it was learning not to be afraid that began the business of setting him free from an anxious and isolated life.

I have been dismayed by the recent campaign in the media and in some cases, from our government, to instill a sense of fear in our Australian community about terrorism, and in particular about Islamic terrorism. While it is perfectly clear that there are Islamic terrorists at work around the world, it is important that we Christians do not let ourselves fall into an easy racial or faith based stereotyping that results in a growing sense of unease in our community about anyone who looks different from the dominant Anglo Australian norm.

Just as most Christians are not fundamentalist extremists who want to destroy the current society (like the infamous Westboro Baptist Church in the USA) most Muslims are not fundamental terrorists. They have the same aspirations for family harmony, stable work and opportunities for their children that mainline Christians have. At the recent dedication of the Interfaith Chapel at the Ballarat Cancer Facility, a Muslim Registrar spoke very movingly about how much he and his family owe to the wider Australian community for providing for them a home of safety and opportunity. It is important that voices like his are heard more widely in our community as the media race towards polarizing judgmental superficialities. Fear is easy. We can so easily slip into "us and them" thinking instead of recognizing that we are all bound together in what Reinhold Niebuhr called "this bundle of life."

What can we do in order to push back fear and hold onto the great Christian virtue and message of love? Sometimes the simplest things can speak most powerfully:speaking to a veiled woman on the bus, smiling, extending the normal common courtesies of life to those who dress differently or speak differently. Make an effort to get to know the Muslim family down the street. Take the opportunity to visit a local mosque when it has open days. Participate in interfaith events and deliberately make an effort to build relationships with those who are different.

Above all, we should be careful not to slip into the easy caricatures of people of other faiths that sometimes slip into our language, our jokes and our political commentaries. It is not up to someone else to do the hard work of Love, it is up to each one of us to take every opportunity to reach out to those who may be fearful, with the confidence that love will always triumph over the darkness of fear.

Fear is easy: Love is hard.

With every blessing,

+Garry Weatherill
Bishop of Ballarat


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