There were chants. There were people holding up placards pleading to STOP THE MOSQUE! The 150 anti-Islamic campaigners were interrupting a council meeting at the Bendigo Town Hall.
The meeting was subsequently adjourned and the councillors were forced to leave under police escort. The protest was organised as part of a noisy campaign to stop a mosque being built in Bendigo.
No need to fear Islam
Perhaps Islam is feared in Australia because we have seen the actions of terrorists fighting in the name of their religion. But surely the horrendous actions of a handful of individuals do not outshine the peace loving faith of over a billion people from around the world.
Any idea can be used to promote hatred and violence. History is littered with all sorts of evils and injustices committed in the name of many different religions and ideologies. Islam certainly isn't the only idea that has been associated with violence.
Perhaps Islam is also feared because it represents a different way of life. Muslims are seen as 'the other' and 'the other' is often a threat to us. But surely this is something that needs to be exposed and overcome.
The Christian Way
I also think Christians should celebrate the building of mosques in their communities based on Christian theology.
I don't think Jesus came to create a religion that enters into a fight, but a religion that loves. It's just too easy to set the two religions up against each other. To think it's 'us' against 'them'. To think there's a battle against Yahweh of the Bible and Allah of the Quran. But I don't think we need to be entering into a battle.
Rather I think we need to learn how to love even deeper. After all, Jesus advocated for a radical religion of compassion. I think Jesus would have compassion on his Muslim friends and want them to have a place to worship.
Furthermore, a mosque is a place where non-Muslims can go to and learn about the faith of their neighbours. Surely the more people learn about others the greater love they can have for them.
Salvation and embrace
In fact, I would like to suggest that in Australia (at least) a united friendship between Christians and Muslims - results in a salvation from horrible conflicts and the civil wars we're witnessing every night on our newscasts â this united friendship comes when people embrace the building of mosques within their communities. In Sydney yesterday our politicians and Muslim leaders met for this purpose of united friendship.
In his book Exclusion and Embrace, Mirsolav Volf proposes the idea that 'embrace' is the theologically correct response to others, instead of exclusion. Exclusion is the sin, insists Volf, it causes people to react out in fear and hate to all those who exist outside of their inner circle.
Volf suggests that salvation comes not only as people are reconciled with God, but also as they take the dangerous step of opening themselves to 'the other', embracing them in the same all encompassing embrace God bestows upon us.
This is Christian Mission 101 to the Muslim world. The book 'Mosques and Miracles' by Baptist minister Stuart Robinson tells stories of Imams coming to Jesus' Salvation who feel called to remain in the Mosque as salt.
Danielle Carney lives in Melbourne and has a degree in Christian Theology.
Danielle Carney's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/danielle-carney.html