hello brother

On this day one year ago Christchurch and the world was shocked by the terrorist tragedy at two city mosques.

The Muslim community were an inspiration to the world as they suffered the hate-attack that took the lives of so many of their friends and family.

There was an outpouring of love and support for those who suffered, but the greatest witness was from members of the Muslim community who responded with love and forgiveness, including one of those who greeted his killer with the words “hello brother.” These witnesses were our teachers, showing us the power of faith practiced in forgiveness.

Given that today’s planned Christchurch memorial service has been cancelled because of the Coronavirus threat, I thought it appropriate to take time today to recall the Mass celebrated in St. Mary’s pro-Cathedral Christchurch less than 24 hours after the attack last year. A single online notice advertising the Mass drew a packed Cathedral of parishioners seeking the opportunity to pray.

At that Mass celebrated by Bishop Paul Martin, he shared this reflection. Listen to the podcast or read the text below. Note especially a most moving moment when the worshippers knelt to pray the Prayer of St. Francis.

Homily of Bishop Paul Martin.
Saturday 16 March 2019

When a family member dies we feel deep grief and loss. Our tears flow from a pain that is deep and it feels as if the one we love is torn from us. Such grief is raw and real, and words are completely inadequate.

Today is such a day.

We are unable to express the confusion and pain we feel. Our grief threatens to overwhelm our community at the tragic loss of our sisters and brothers and the act of hate that has been inflicted.

Today is such a day of shared grief and pain.

In the presence of such violence and loss we cry from the heart: “Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord”. We know that our loving God has not caused this pain, but the freedom God gives us as a mark of his great love has been tragically misused and abused.

We gather here this morning because we are at a loss about what to do or what to say. I know that many of you have already reached out to members of the Muslim community in your neighbourhoods and workplaces. Your acts of love are already overpowering the hate.

We know, in solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers who gathered in the Christchurch mosques and around the world yesterday, that our only hope is in God. Our only hope is in God.

Last month Pope Francis was in the United Arab Emirates and met with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb. The highlight of their meeting was the signing of a joint declaration on human fraternity. Their exhortation begins: “In the name of God who has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and who has called them to live together as brothers and sisters, to fill the earth and make known the values of goodness, love and peace.”

“Brothers and sisters”…. “Filling the earth with values of goodness”, “love and peace”. This is our shared mission in these tragic days in our city and in our land.

This is not a new mission for Muslims and Catholics. Pope Francis meeting the Grand Imam took place exactly 800 years after St. Francis of Assisi travelled to Egypt to meet the Sultan. Then they met as brothers knowing they were siblings in the family of the One God and in their time together discovering that they were friends. They had no shared verbal language, but those who witnessed their meeting reported that the language of love was tangible and powerful between them.

We are here today as friends, friends who are suffering, friends grieving together in the midst of an unspeakable tragedy. Let us follow the example of the Grand Imam and Pope Francis last month, of the Muslim family of faith as in a gesture of penitential solidarity we now kneel together and pray the prayer of St. Francis…

Make me a channel of your peace
Where there is hatred let me bring your love
Where there is injury, your pardon Lord
And where there’s doubt, true faith in you.
Make me a channel of your peace
Where there’s despair in life let me bring hope
Where there is darkness, only light
And where there’s sadness ever joy.
Oh, master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul.
Make me a channel of your peace
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
In giving of ourselves that we receive
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.
Oh, master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul
Make me a channel of your peace
Where there’s despair in life let me bring hope
Where there is darkness, only light
And where there’s sadness ever joy
8 Responses to "hello brother"
  1. In light of the aaniversary gathering in Christchurch today being cancelled, it has felt poignant to take this time to be still and remember and to pray for love and peace to reign in our city and the world.

  2. An exquisite prayer of love, peace and goodness. Thank you for helping us to learn to be authentically human, to stay centred and committed in the eternal light and calm of our hearts. +

  3. A wonderful Christian response to this dreadful massacre of our Muslim brothers and sisters. The Pope has certainly lead by example. I love the prayer of St Francis.

  4. Thank you, Fr John, for posting this today. The prayer of St Francis is one of my favourites as it carries the deep message of how we live our faith in Christ. I pray for the souls of our lost Muslim brothers and sisters and for the comfort and wellbeing of their families. God bless.

  5. It is so sad that there are human beings that are full of hate. but we are so lucky to have so many good people who show us what true love is all about. After all God is Love and He allows His love to shine through to us through all good people.

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