By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
A year after subsequent shootings in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand Catholic Bishops' Committee for Interfaith Relations has issued a letter of hope with a call for peace to all the parishes in the country. It was released on 12 March, just prior to the 15 March 2019 anniversary.
Recognizing the shared value of shalom and salaam in all Abrahamic religions, the Bishops stressed the importance of concentrating efforts towards harmony and prayer.
“If we allow it, the call to peace divides and draws not only our thoughts and actions towards non-violence, but also our hearts and prayers towards God.”
The Bishops then enjoined the faithful to pray for and with all Muslims, calling on God “to support us in sharing each other’s burdens, and to give us strength and courage to stand up against oppression and justice.”
Remembering those left behind
Expressing the desire that such attacks never happen again, the Bishops confirmed their closeness to the widows, children and relatives of the victims of the violent attack, praying that the “desire to reach out with love and compassion may remain part of all people’s daily lives.”
Friendship despite differences
In a gesture of unity and fellowship, the Bishops’ statement reaffirmed the Church’s bond with the Muslim community.
“‘You are our friend.’ We do not need to be the same, we can be incredibly diverse – whether through religion, language, origin or body – but we are called to live as brothers and sisters. Difference is not a barrier, it is how we are made and we are made in the image of God.”
On 15 March 2019, a gunman opened fire on men, women and children in two mosques leaving at least 50 dead and several others wounded.