May MacLeod Lecture Calls For Interfaith Collaboration
The 2017 May MacLeod lecture was a passionate challenge for Christians and Muslims to collaborate to overcome Islamophobia.
Reverend Dr Sathianathan Clarke, who is professor at Washington D.C’s Wesley Theological Seminar, delivered the lecture at the Centre for Ministry on 21st November. Dr Clarke called on Christians and Muslims to practice “protective hospitality.”
“Protective hospitality means to disrupt regimes of discrimination even as it embraces othered communities,” he said.
Dr Clarke cited the example of Christians and Muslims protecting each other’s worship services during times of turmoil in Egypt as a previous example of how the two faiths should practice protective hospitality.
“Are we our brother’s or sister’s keeper? Yes, indeed we are more than that: we are our brother and sister’s protector.”
“We need to protect each other.”
In keeping with the theme of interfaith collaboration, Charles Sturt University’s Dr Derya Iner delivered the reply.
Dr Iner outlined how her research into Islamopbobia in Australia had found that an alarming number of attacks on Muslims were taking place in public places such as train stations and shopping centres.
Dr Iner was the principal researcher and editor of the report, “Islamophobia & Faith: Australian Context”.
Dr Clarke defined Islamophobia as “a manufactured social anxiety against Islam and communities of Muslims that spawns a subconscious mentality of hostility and spins a web of discriminatory practices, both of which are becoming normalised in modern societies.”
He highlighted that Islamophobia existed in Buddhism and Hindusim as well as Christianity. He said that it had been exacerbated by fundamentalist preaching, political parties, and certain media outlets, as people often lacked a lived experience of dealing with Muslim people.
“Many of us have never had [meaningful] relationships with Muslims,” he said.
“The only way many of us look at our Muslim neighbours is [through] what has been manufactured for us.”
Acknowledging Real Differences
According to Dr Clarke a history of conflict between the two religions had to be acknowledged.
“There is a deep theological conflict between Islam and Christianity,” Dr Clarke said.
“Islamophobia is nurtured by this backstory of conflict.”
Both, he said, were “telling sacred narratives that don’t agree.”
“You can’t make them agree.”
Dr Clarke cited the differing way that the two faiths understood Jesus as “a real difference.”
“Within Muslim theology in general, Jesus is more associated with end time theology.”
Dr Clarke said that overcoming these differences was a matter of practicing hospitality without attached agendas or expectations.
“Utilitarian kindness which is directed only toward conversion is always fake love,” he said.
Dr Clarke cited Pope Francis washing the feet of Muslim refugees as an example of hospitality that called for nothing in return.
The May MacLeod lecture is an annual event. Its namesake, May MacLeod (1913-1984), was a committed Uniting Church layperson. The lecture is intended to present issues of concern to the church and to be accessible to ordinary people. Previous speakers have included Tim Costello, Peter Rollins, and Lowitja O’Donoghue.
The lecture will be uploaded online.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ editor
Sathianathan Clarke’s book Competing Fundamentalisms is available now.
Pictured: Joan MacLeod, Sathianathan Clarke, and Derya Iner.