Hope already breaking through says Chch bishop

Chch interfaith service

Christchurch Bishop Paul Martin, SM, preached the homily at an inter-church non-denominational service of prayer
and hope six days after the mosque shootings which saw 50 people killed and dozens more injured.

The service, held at Latimer Square in Christchurch on March 21, was organised by Te Raranga, the Churches Forum, which was formed after the 2011 earthquake to consolidate churches’ recovery and outreach efforts.

Te Raranga includes Anglicans Catholics, Baptists, Adventists, Pentecostals, Methodists, Presbyterians, Quakers, and other independents.

The Latimer Square service was reportedly attended by hundreds of people.

Bishop Martin, in his homily, said that Christchurch “is changed forever by the tragic and evil actions of those who act out their fears and hate with violence”.

“We are changed, but in so many moments in the past week, and in this outpouring today of love and support for our Muslim brothers and sisters, we see that already hope is breaking through and in the end love will prevail,” he said.

People have been changed as they reached out to those who have suffered, to those who previously might have been strangers while living nearby, the bishop noted.

He added that love is “the most powerful agent of change in history. Love never fails”.

Bishop Martin spoke of people walking together as did the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, having lost their friend in a tragic and unjust way.

These disciples talked about their loss, welcomed a stranger and shared their hopes. The Christchurch community is
doing likewise.

“ . . . [W]e know that the default setting of the healthy human person is hope. Our hope is for a new world where there are no enemies, only friends, no persecutors, only brothers and sisters of every culture and every faith and every diverse experience and expression of humanity, living
together in the hope and the desire for good that unites us.”

The bishop acknowledged the reality of feelings of anger, but “anger and pain can be seeds that give birth to a new way of living together”.

“We, citizens of this beautiful city Ōtautahi Christchurch, know this place of pain and suffering well. In the last decade
we have been through devastation and, from this pain and loss, seen a new beginning. A new city is emerging in this
place, new buildings yes, but also a new and strengthened and united people.

“So today let it be known to the world that we, the people of this place and this land, are committing ourselves to a new beginning — that this place, our city and this land of Aotearoa New Zealand is a place of hope and love. Let us show the world (as we have in the past decade) that while we in Ōtautahi Christchurch have been brought to our knees again by tragedy, we now stand with renewed passion, strong, as one, and embracing every stranger as a brother, a sister, and a friend.”

Also at the service, Linwood Mosque imam Ibrahim Abdelhalim thanked all who attended for their solidarity at this time, it was reported.

People brought fern fronds to the service which were used in an act of remembrance.

Bishop Martin also did a blessing at a vigil in Hagley Park on March 22, which was attended by thousands.

Also on March 22, Cardinal John Dew was among those who stood outside the mosque at Kilbirnie as a sign of solidarity during the Muslim Friday prayers.

The cardinal was also among religious leaders who went onto the floor of Parliament on March 19 to stand in solidarity as imam Nazim ul haq Thanyi said a prayer, which was followed by the usual parliamentary prayer.

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Michael Otto

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