MEMBERS of the Uniting Church's National Working Group on Relations with Other Faiths have called on all Australians – whether they are religious or not – to take some time this month to respect and understand other faiths, cultures and traditions.
"When the voices of hate and intolerance speak loudly in the public square, church members should recall their Christian values," said UCA Associate General Secretary Rev Glenda Blakefield.
"As Christians we believe strongly that diversity is part of God's creation, and that we are called to live together in peace, loving our neighbour as God loves us and all people."
"That means rejecting and correcting hateful language and misinformation against religious or ethnic groups however it is conveyed – in the media, by email, or through conversation."
The call comes as Uniting Church congregations across Australia mark Interfaith September, during which they are asked to reflect on the anniversary of September 11, the International Day of Peace (21 September), and engage in peace-building activities with members of different faiths.
Committee member Rev Heather Griffin from the Queensland Synod lamented the dissemination of chain emails targeting Muslims that are unwittingly forwarded around networks.
"As Christians we are expected not to bear false witness against our neighbour," said Rev. Griffin.
"Not-with-standing this kind of misinformation, the Christian church unfortunately has a history of violence that sits alongside its history of love and compassion. We cannot point the finger at others without also seeing ourselves."
"We in the Uniting Church want to set an example to Australians about how to create a community of hospitality."
"The challenge and responsibility are to be God's salt in our society, to stand against injustice, and to stand with our neighbour," said Rev Griffin.
The Uniting Church's National Working Group on Relations with Other Faiths was established to promote knowledge and understanding of other living world faiths and their communities.
Members of the Working Group gathered in Sydney on 6–7 September in their first meeting since the Uniting Church's 13th Assembly meeting in Adelaide from 15–21 July.
Resources for Interfaith September are available for download from the Relations with Other Faiths website at www.assembly.uca.org.au/rof