Fighting fear with love in action
The unconditional love and grace of God are on full display in the events of Christmas. This amazing time of year is perfect for reflecting on where we find hope for a better way to live with each other.
Insights had a lot to talk about when we sat down with with Fr. Shenouda Mansour, General Secretary of the NSW Ecumnenical Council, Rev Margaret Mayman, minister at Pitt Street Uniting Church, Stewart Mills, member of the NSW Relations With Other Faiths Committee and Lina Jebeile, a former teacher and food blogger who is currently running a campaign #SpreadHummusNotHate.
In the final part of our three-part special, we focus upon how people of faith can improve the world around them, and explore what it means for perfect love to drive out fear.
How can people of faith be more effective in society?
Margaret Mayman: I do think that the challenge for people like us, who are committed to a different kind of world, is how do we engage with the people who are supporting [those who would be divisive]. I think these people are enemies of humanity, but I am still called to love my enemies. What does it mean to understand what drives their fear? I think that some of the commentary over the last couple of days from the US, is that we need to recognise there is a group of white people — and evangelical Christians among them — who feel very disempowered and dispossessed and haven’t had the opportunity to have the kind of conversations and interactions that we have had. And it doesn’t help if we just write them off as people that we can’t tolerate, but we have to try and understand what’s the pain and the fear that drives them to hate.
Lina Jebeile: It’s interesting because wearing a hijab is like I am wearing a sign. I’m Muslim and there is really nothing anyone can do about that.
Stewart Mills: The irony is in 1960s Australia, Catholic nuns wore head coverings. We are forgetting that head covering is a very common part of religious tradition.
LJ: There was recently the issue in France, with women in burkini’s kicked off the beach and then social media shared the group of nuns splashing around in the water. There is no difference.
Father Shenouda Mansour: We should be respectful of different traditions. It’s an expression of our diversity and it’s an expression of our own journey of faith. Each one of us have our own journey of faith.
SM: The Islamic community has many people who do speak out and often that message is not picked up by the media. There are genuine threats in the world with people dying and being killed in the name of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. With the Trump election, he was elected because of people who felt disenfranchised. So, for me, it’s about how we acknowledge the threats and fears and speak up.
MM: It’s to not diminish the real fears, but work out what does it mean to respond with love and it’s not just about feeling or thinking, it’s got to be about action and turning up.
What does ‘perfect love drives out fear’ mean to you?
MM: As a Christian, it’s a quote from 1 John 4:18. In that context, it is talking about God’s love and the chapter starts off and talks about God being love. It’s something we share across our religious traditions. But for me, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be afraid because there are some real things to be afraid of. As a lesbian and connected to the LGBTQI community, there is real fear for my friends in the US about what will happen to them and their rights and kids who are waking up in the morning saying ‘Will you still be married?’ after this. I don’t think that ‘perfect love drives out fear’ means there is no fear, but I think it means that in the presence of God, we have nothing to be afraid of — God is a God of love, not a God of violence or exclusion. God embraces us all.
SM: The idea of unconditional love. So, as a parent, we love our children unconditionally. They may rebel, but at the end of the day your parents are always there. No matter all the terrible things you have done. For me, that empitomises perfect love.
“Jesus was a left-wing radical who loved the marginalised.” – Fr. Shenouda
FS: Perfect love for me is about approaching people in love not fear. Approaching people with a smile. We have the aspect of the divine love of God, this perfect relationship between us and God. When there is love between people, there is no fear because we can express our differences and express ourselves in such a way that you don’t get offended. When there is
no love, anything small is magnified.
LJ: I think it’s really important to speak and connect with people with an open mind. Don’t have pre-judgment. Going back to social media – I have a love/hate relationship with social media. Facts don’t seem to be important any more, in the social media world people’s opinions mean everything. Although social media is meant to connect people, it has this power to disconnect people in that sense. From fear comes hate and often violence.
MM: That’s what we’re called to do differently – is not to respond to hate with hate, but with love. And that’s not a wimpy love. It’s a kind of love that involves justice. I think that’s something we haven’t talked about – how justice and love go together. If you really love your neighbour and your enemy, you seek genuine justice for them.
FS: Jesus was a left-wing radical who loved the marginalised. Perfect love drives out fear – because there is no fear when you love a person.
- This is part of an hour-long round table conversation. Click here to listen to the full conversation.