Two Australian pastors in the province of Victoria will go to jail if they do not apologize for publicly comparing Christianity with Islam according to their beliefs. One organization attempting to come to their rescue is The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Washington-based international non- profit law firm renowned for protecting the free expression of all religious traditions.The Victoria state Islamic Council took offense at statements raised during a seminar led by the two pastors that "the Koran promotes violence and killing; that Muslims lie; and that Muslims intend to take over Australia and delclare it an Islamic State."[Crosswalk]
Arguments are being presented today in the Appeals Court of Australia. A team of Australian lawyers is seeking to have overturned the 2004 ruling of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal which found that public expression of the pastors’ beliefs incited hatred against Muslims in violation of Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act because the pastors’ beliefs were deemed “offensive” and “unreasonable” interpretations of Christian and Islamic teachings. The Becket Fund is a member of that team, counseling the pastors regarding their rights under international law dealing with religious freedoms. [More]
A simple show of hands will probably reveal few Christians who disagree with that, forgetting that history records similar christian impulses and ambitions and their tragic consequences. If anything, the incident illustrates the need to exercise restraint and care when dealing with other faiths. Christians tend to be careless and I must confess that I too have a tendency to generalise or speak too hastily - whether it is about Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism. As someone who's living in Muslim-majority Malaysia I know too well the inherent dangers of hurting Islamic 'sensitivities.'
The study of comparative religions is tricky, but absolutely critical in a multicultural nation such as ours if you want to have a clearer understanding of spirituality in all its complementary and divergent shades. The question is, how do you do that in cynical times like this?
>The Becket Fund link to this story