|Our Lady Help of Christians and the Battle of Lepanto|
artist: Paulo Veronese
Three cheers for Bishop Porteous, who has called on an Islamic organization to remove provocative and offensive billboards claiming that 'Jesus is an Islamic prophet'.
The billboards in question have apparently been paid for by an Islamic group calling itself 'MyPeace' (!), which claims that it wants "to encourage Christians and Muslims to find common ground by raising awareness that Islam believed in Jesus Christ".
Except of course that Islam doesn't believe in Jesus as Christ - a word which means the Messiah, the anointed one! Unsurprisingly, the group's website is actually all about how (just say the magic words with conviction) and why (instant forgiveness of all past sins!) to convert to Islam.
What we actually believe
Fortunately, Bishop Julian Porteous, currently an Auxiliary of Sydney, has pointed out that to Christians, "Jesus is more than a prophet". The SMH reports:
"He is the Son of God. He is acclaimed Lord and Saviour of humanity," he said on Monday.
"In Australia with its Christian heritage a billboard carrying the statement `Jesus A prophet of Islam' is provocative and offensive to Christians."
Bishop Porteous, whose comments come a day after the Darlinghurst billboard was vandalised, said it was important religions don't antagonise others with "provocative statements".
"For the sake of preserving social harmony and respect between major world religions these billboards should be withdrawn, along with others which carry messages directly offensive to Christians," he said.
Australians have not been fooled!
Go back even a few months and the general line coming from Islamic organizations was generally the soft-soap approach: yes, there are extremists out there, but most of us don't like them; yes some countries do have nasty old-fashioned sharia law, but don't worry, we don't want that here.
For some strange reason this line hasn't, on the whole, been swallowed by the majority of Australians.
Perhaps because they can see the continued strong growth in the number of Muslims in Australia thanks to our high and 'non-discriminatory' migration policy, and an associated flexing of political muscle in some NSW electorates in particular.
Perhaps its because they read ongoing reports of serious threats from homegrown and imported terrorists, and note the persistent refusal of local Islamic leaders to actually condemn such actions.
Or perhaps it is just because the more they learn about Islam and its persecution of Christians around the world, the less they like it!
In any case, it is becoming clear that in response, Islam in Australia is switching tactics.
In recent months we've had a submission to a Parliamentary Inquiry advocating recognition of sharia law from a Muslim peak body, in line with Australia's alleged commitment to pluralism. The Government came out strongly rejecting this, but don't think this is the last time this argument will get trotted out - after all it has succeeded in the UK and Canada, both of which recognise sharia law courts in areas such as divorce and inheritance law.
And now the claim of 'common ground' with Christians.
The problem of course is that this one is much harder to counter because many so-called Christians don't actually believe that Jesus is truly divine - that's why so many people support women's ordination amongst many other errors! Because if they did think Our Lord was truly divine, if they did believe he actually instituted the Church through deliberate decisions as God....
The other problem is that Islam presents an attractive alternative for many in the face of the disintegration of our society. We might all - including some notable feminists - instinctively recoil at a group of women deliberately calling themselves 'sluts' and demanding the right to wear anything they like or nothing in any circumstances whatsoever, for example, but it is only Islamic leaders who are standing up and effectively calling them on it. Of course, most of us would think the Islamic position an extreme overreaction in the opposite direction, but in the absence of a clear alternative, some will take the extreme.
The recovery of a Catholic culture
It is precisely for these reasons that we need to work on recovering a genuinely catholic culture, so as to present an alternative.
In the UK, fish on Fridays is on the way back in. Our bishops should follow suit.
We need a big push to remind people that Sunday is a Holy Day of Obligation that should be taken seriously.
The UK bishops there are also considering reinstating Holy Days of Obligation during the week - and Ascension this Thursday would be one of my key picks for a similar move here!
To bring back a focus on confession (making it more readily available at a variety of times and places would be a good start in my own diocese!).
There is a lot to be done.
But a bishop calling Islam on its hypocrisy in demanding that no one do anything that offends it, while freely assaulting the beliefs of other religions is a very good start indeed.
Unfortunately the assault from within is a lot harder to make people realise is a serious threat than an invasion fleet sailing up to your shores. But pray for victory nonetheless!