In an interfaith context, Hamilton Bishop Stephen Lowe has stressed the importance of offering hospitality, saying this is the key to dialogue and peaceful co-existence. 

Hamilton Bishop Steve Lowe with Waikato Interfaith Council President Louis Paulussen at the Islam Awareness Week —‑ Interfaith Service. Photo credit: Jovi Abellanosa.
Hamilton Bishop Steve Lowe with Waikato Interfaith Council President Louis Paulussen at the Islam Awareness Week —‑ Interfaith Service. Photo credit: Jovi Abellanosa.

Bishop Lowe was one of the speakers at an Interfaith Evening hosted by the Waikato Muslim Association and the Waikato Interfaith Council on August 23. The evening, held at the Hamilton City Council reception lounge, was part of Islam Awareness Week.

“Dialogue expressed in the context of hospitality enables us to learn and to admire, but also at times to critique or condemn, especially when peaceful co-existence is shattered by those who often have a distorted vision of God,” Bishop Lowe said.

“When we do not recognise God in each other, humanity gets into trouble.”

The bishop noted there are too many acts of violence today, citing the murder of the 85-year-old French priest, Fr Jacques Hamel.

Fr Hamel was celebrating Mass in Saint-Etienne-du- Rouvray when attackers forced him to his knees and slit his throat. However, instead of tearing the Christian and Muslim communities apart, the tragedy brought them together.

“We are called to help each other live the deep truths of our religious values in order to build a more just and fraternal society,” said Bishop Lowe.

“To engage in the dialogue of life is to share life together. The more we share life together the more we grow in peaceful co-existence. Peacefully co-existing with each other enables us to share our experience of God.”

But for dialogue to happen, he said, there should be hospitality first.

“Hospitality requires mutual respect between the host and the guest. And when we offer hospitality, we honour God, for we are all God’s creatures, God’s children. Hospitality opens the door for dialogue as we come into each other’s presence as guest,” he said.

Bishop Lowe recounted the experience of his priest friend who was with the New Zealand Defence Force in Afghanistan. He said his friend would meet local mullahs for afternoon tea.

“Gradually the mullahs came to understand my friend was also a man of God, who wanted to help. From hospitality came dialogue, from dialogue a deeper encounter, and from the deeper encounter a working together on projects for peace,” he said.

He also recalled an experience while visiting another priest friend in Pakistan.

He said while they were praying as a Christian community, a call for prayer came from a nearby mosque and on the roof of the house next door, a man came out to pray.

“I remember it being a deeply moving experience to be praying to the one almighty and merciful God at the same time,” he said.

“We believe in one God but our experience of God differs. Nonetheless we should be able to recognise the truth in each other’s religion.”

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