The Jihad of Jesus

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This is a summary of my thoughts from Dave Andrews’ address in Dunedin a couple of weeks ago.

I found what he had to say worked in with Jihad al-madina, a suggestion for a Muslim understanding of non-violence that I heard some years ago at the Abrahamite Inter-faith Peace lecture; not just not-violence, but a positive value of civic discipleship.  The cultivation of such a discipline works for Christians as well as Muslims.

Dave Andrews identifies the following values:

  • recognise that the God of Abraham is also the god of the Other in this dialogue
  • don’t start with identifying the Other as false, or yourself as superior
  • affirm the good in the other – confront what is bad in ourselves (otherwise that beam in our eye is going to do someone an injury!)

Jihad does not equate with war in the Koran. That is a different word, qital.  Jihad is the non-violent struggle for justice.  Jihad needs to be taken back from dangerous people of both sides.

Jesus should not be the poster boy for crusade.  He is the kalimatullah, the word of God.

Andrews introduced the vow of the Kudai Khidmatgar, written by Badshah Khan, an advocate for non-violence alongside Gandhi in pre-independent India.  It deserves to be better known:

I am a Khudai Khidmatgar; and as God needs no service, but serving his creation is serving him, I promise to serve humanity in the name of God.

I promise to refrain from violence and from taking revenge. 

I promise to forgive those who oppress me or treat me with cruelty. 

I promise to refrain from taking part in feuds and quarrels and from creating enmity. 

I promise to treat every Pathan as my brother and friend. 

I promise to refrain from antisocial customs and practices. 

I promise to live a simple life, to practice virtue and to refrain from evil. 

I promise to practice good manners and good behavior and not to lead a life of idleness. I promise to devote at least two hours a day to social work. 

Non-violent change needs extravagant impropriety.


Peace Lecture

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Leslie GriffithsThis year’s peace lecture was given by Rev. Dr Leslie Lord Griffiths, of the Methodist Church of Great Britain.  He is a life peer of the British House of Lords.  Is there are petition to have him released from this life sentence?  I would sign it.

The peace lecture presented by Dunedin’s Interfaith Abrahamite Council exchanges each year between Jews, Muslims and Christians.  This year it was the Christians’ turn.  Griffiths was in New Zealand was in New Zealand for the national interfaith conference in Dunedin, and he stayed on to do the peace lecture.  As well he had a programme of speaking and preaching in New Zealand.

Fans of Flanders and Swan should feel very comfortable with Griffiths’ accent.  I did.

Religious traditions can no longer contain themselves hermetically.  They overlap.  This creates an opportunity to become aware of each other, to appreciate each other with warm affection, to enjoy where we can have common witness and practice.  Religion relates to a community of faith.  God, whom we encounter as the stranger, transcends our identities, our labels.  God does not love humanity — god loves each human individual.

We are in an unstable age, as one Abrahamite religious tradition, Islam, enters its fifteenth century.  Look how Christianity coped with its fifteenth century.  It wasn’t pretty.  The House of Islam is in the middle of this century with its rivalry of puritanic sects and moderates.  Western nations standing to one side, behaving like a prejudicial baseball bat, the House of War, does not help.

At the same time, in the midst of revolutions, it is the springtime of nations.  People of faith, who share a god of peace, unite!

I did not linger to enjoy the supper after the talk.  The winter season is given my throat a touch of bronchitis and I really felt like opening a bottle of wine.


Interfaith Engagement for Peace — A Muslim Perspective by Dr Ingrid Mattson

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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.

Peace and Missionality

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The local Buddhists have an exhibition this week at the Community Gallery.  I visited at the weekend to see if I found it interesting enough to stay for events.  I didn’t.  Mind you there is a session next Saturday on Tibetan script so I would like to sit in on that.

The Dunedin Abrahamic Interfaith Group invited Rabbi Adi Cohen of the Wellington Progressive Jewish Congregation to address their annual peace lecture.  It didn’t strike me as a substantial lecture although I noted down some points:

  • Peace as the absence of non-peace is disturbing
  • The world changes and our hopes should change with it
  • The other person is created in the image of god
  • dialogue does not begin between worldviews; dialogue begins between persons of different worldviews

The Rabbi is in New Zealand because he did not want to see his son grow up to serve in the Israeli Defense Force; and a Palestinian woman in the audience brought her family to New Zealand to escape her environment of violence.  Does it take to escape to the margins of the world for dialogue to begin?

Dunedin Cluster Group of Southern Presbytery last night, we were talking about mission, again.  There were things from which to learn and listen.  I wonder if more from Opoho need to hear these things?

The staff of the Presbyterian Archives and the Hewitson Library got a letter about the merger of the two organisations on the Knox College campus.  It was a rote business letter and not particularly sensitive.  There is no assurance that positions will continue or that staff members will remain.  The Principal of the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership and the Assembly Executive Secretary will meet with us in two weeks.  At the moment I wait.

I am thinking my alternative is to return to Invercargill so I can be closer to my mother and other members of my family.  We will see if I take up that option.


Dear Diary

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Last entry for the month, where was the Hobbit spotted in the end of October.

  • Third Wednesday of the Month is Parish Council night.  I talked in preparation for our Rugby World Cup Final night; and the Parish Self-Review, we will look at the questions when they come out, the self-review looks like too much organisation for a small parish like ours
  • Last Wednesday went and heard the Venerable Doctor Maitree Moorthi of the Sri Lankan Buddhist community in Dunedin speak on the topic How to control an agitated mind and body during exam times.
  • Last Thursday the Assisi Day of Prayer was celebrated at Holy Name Church with prayers being led by representatives of the Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Muslim communities.
  • Sadly missed out on the Hallowe’en Hafla at the Kasbah, I decided to stay in as I had my mother visiting me.  Otherwise I would have provided a report.  Apologies to my Khamzin tribal friends.  Perhaps next time.

Dear Diary

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I’m over a week behind in updating my hobbit-spotting activities.

  • The Dunedin Abrahamite Group hosted Chris Marshall for its annual peace lecture
  • I visited Brockville Community Church for a meeting on parish self-review procedure
  • The Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies hosted a lecture on the archaeology of Shetland and Orkney Island groups: Living on the Edge
  • The Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies hosted a second lecture was on the relationship between Yeats and T. S. Eliot
  • I joined eleven other people to observe a prayer on the Museum lawn for the Feast of Saint Francis

Some of these activities deserve greater detail.  I may do that in a future update.

Old Faiths, New World

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I waited for a public lecture addressed by the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, David Lange, at the University of Otago. I arrived at the Saint David Lecture Theatre about ten past seven. Despite there being twenty minutes until the lecture began the theatre was already two-thirds full. At half past the hour the audience was advised to be seated or else they would have to leave the lecture theatre. A few people lingered around the doors of the theatre. Most people found somewhere. The theatre had seating capacity for 550 people so that was an impressive attendence.

The former PM is in advanced stage of illness and this is expected to be his last public engagement. Sad for a man who is only in his early sixties. Despite his obvious frailty he spoke with warmth and humanity.

I do not think that he engaged the subject. Instead he spoke on the illegalities of the current campaign in the Middle East led by the American administration.

He opined that religion was a product of culture. It could equally be a vehicle for human values or human oppression. Respect each other as you would want to be respected; understand each other as you would want to be understood; recognise the limitations and fallibilities of your worldviews as you would want to recognise the limitations of other worldviews.

It is better to live in a cosmopolitan world with a diversity of worldviews and races; a mono-culture would be dull. I came away feeling enriched.