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Catholics back Muslim claims against evangelical Christians

Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart's Vicar for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations has explained its support for the Islamic Council of Victoria's anti-vilification case against Catch the Fire Ministries, before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

A statement from the Archdiocese's Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission says that Episcopal Vicar Fr Peter Kenny sought to make an intervention on behalf of the Islamic Council. The Uniting Church also sought to make such an intervention. Dr Gary Bouma, an Anglican priest, appeared as an expert witness on behalf of the Islamic Council.

Fr Pat McInerney, a Columban priest from Sydney, also appeared as an expert witness on behalf of the Islamic Council.

In response to questions from Catholics and other Christians about why Christian witnesses were appearing in court supporting non-Christians against another Christian group, the Archdiocesan Commission said that it believed that Muslims in Victoria had indeed been vilified by the activities of Catch the Fire Ministries. The opinion was justified on the basis of the transcript of the Seminar and the newsletter and website articles that were at the centre of the case.

It commented that many Catholics in Victoria would be able to remember "a time not so long ago when it was common for the Catholic Church to be the object of similar vilification".

"Indeed, anti-Catholic vilification still occurs in some corners of our society. Our sympathies therefore naturally lie with any who find themselves victims of such conduct. In standing with them in such situations we are seeking to act as neighbours to those in need (Luke 10:36). We do not first ask what the faith or belief of our neighbour is when we see them in such need, but rather we ask what justice, kindness and humility require of us (Micah 6:8)."

The Commission said that the intention of the Catholic intervention was to show the respect the Catholic Church has towards Islam.

"We wished to show our respect in the face of possible vilification, in accordance with 'with the official policy of the universal Catholic Church' which…urges [Catholics] to 'acknowledge, preserve, and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among [Muslims], also their social life and culture'".

Last week the Commission issued a Position Statement following the intervension. It explains why some people oppose anti-vilification laws, why dialogue is a "most appropriate form of discourse about religion", why Christians should not find themselves in the breech of anti-vilification laws, and why the Catholic Church sought to make the intervention.

Talking about other Faiths: A Position Statement (Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne 16/3/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission, Archdiocese of Melbourne
Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal | Islamic Council of Victoria v Catch the Fire
Victorian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act
Catch the Fire Ministries
Historic win in religious hatred case (The Age 18/12/04)

Mark Durie: Catch the Fire and Daniel Scot's (in)credible testimony (On Line Opinion 18/2/05)
"They do not vilify our ideas, they vilify us" : a reply to Salman Rushdie (Open Democracy UK 22/2/05)

John L Allen: Jesuit Fr. Michael Buckley on relations with non-Christian religions (National Catholic Reporter 18/3/05)
Sandro Magister: But for Dialogue Devotee Fitzgerald, the Purple Is in Doubt (L'Espresso 20/3/05)

22 Mar 2005