Dr Ingrid Mattson was this year’s speaker for the Dunedin Abrahamic Interfaith Group Annual Peace Lecture.  The speaker alternates between Christian, Jewish and Muslim.  Dr Mattson was invited to speak as a Muslim speaker.  The lecture was well attended with representatives of several faith communities present.

She began with a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad, Prevent harm through action.  Create an environment without fear; don’t practice false witness against other communities of faith — courtesy to the stranger is a shared Abrahamic virtue; don’t waste resources on interfaith conflict.

Common witness and familiarity with each other’s worship places should work to create affection between peoples of faith.  Our mutual affection should create an alternative to a society where public display is reserved for symbols of consumerism.  (Fast food loves you!)  Welcome the peoples of scripture, Muslims, Christians, Jews and Sabaeans, they will stand before the throne of grace on the last day.

All people of faith who come to New Zealand as migrants are united that they are settlers in these islands, tauiwi.  It is a Muslim belief that it is impossible to benefit from stolen land.  The Muslim who comes to New Zealand is required to work for justice for the tangata whenua.  It led me to ponder where indigeneity fits into Christianity.  We are citizens, tangata whenua, in the kingdom of god.

A break was taken during the lecture to allow Muslims in the audience to observe sunset prayer.  Sadly this meant they had to leave the lecture theatre for other rooms so their observance took place in private and away from other members of the audience.  I respect that this is a requirement for Muslim women.  However I’m sorry that space could not be made in the lecture theatre for prayer.  I found the one previous occasion that I observed Muslims at prayer to be instructive and beneficial in understanding Islam as a religion of peace.  It is part of their witness.

I think it is a matter to time before the Department of Theology and Religious Studies has a Muslim scholar on staff, a chair of Islamic studies.  I am hopeful about this.  I welcome the other.

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