By Paul Dobbyn
MAROOCHYDORE priest Fr Joe Duffy is having second thoughts about “an inter-faith street party” to celebrate the purchase of land for a mosque next to Stella Maris Church.
This follows angry protests last weekend in the street near the land, formerly owned by the Uniting Church and purchased by the Muslim Organisation of the Sunshine Coast.
About 500 protesters, mostly against the mosque, turned up outside the proposed site in Church Street, which is also not far from the Anglican and Catholic churches.
A dozen police were present to keep protesters and supporters apart at the heated rally on Saturday, September 20.
Fr Duffy, when news of the purchase first broke earlier this month, extended a warm welcome to his potential new neighbours, saying he was “looking forward to the inter-faith street party”.
He said “the Muslims needed to own a premises where they could get together and pray”.
“I think our best defence against Islamic-inspired terrorism in Australia is to do our best to be friendly towards Muslim people on the personal level,” he said.
Fr Duffy’s views were shared by a diverse range of people including Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge and archdiocesan Centre for Multicultural Pastoral Care director Margaret Naylon.
Archbishop Coleridge said “at this point of history, world peace depends in large part not upon wars successfully waged but upon genuine and fruitful dialogue between Christianity and Islam, the two largest religious communities on the planet”.
“Such dialogue is not an option; it’s a solemn duty for both communities,” he said.
Ms Naylon said she was “getting a strong sense that, while those involved in interfaith relations are appalled by what is happening in Iraq, it is clear that this is not a battle between Islam and Christianity”.
“We should be engaging with moderate-mainstream Muslims all over the world to work for peace and greater understanding together,” she said.
“As to how Catholics can ensure reason prevails – it is all about education and being better informed about what is going on.
“Also it is important to remember that every religious tradition has its fanatics and that groups like the IRA did some dreadful things often in the name of religion.”
Premier Newman has encouraged Queenslanders to visit local mosques on open days.
He urged Queenslanders to focus on the fact certain “criminals” were using Islam “as a badge” and to avoid lashing out at the vast majority of the Muslim community, who “unequivocally” rejected the hate and extremist violence.
His comments came after a series of raids on Sydney and Brisbane properties occupied by people believed to be linked to planned terrorist attacks on Australian soil.
Fifteen people were detained after the Sydney raid.
Fr Duffy said he was pleased these raids had taken place, although he was “not happy about how some media outlets have sensationalised these actions”.
He described the Stop the Mosque campaign on the Sunshine Coast as “political and not religious”.
“On behalf of all fair-minded and decent citizens on the Sunshine Coast I unreservedly apologise to the local Islamic community for the absurd and offensive demonstration last Saturday morning outside the Stella Maris Catholic church,” he said.
“We welcome the Muslims as neighbours on religious grounds, the objectors’ arguments are based on political grounds.
“I think our best defence against Islamic inspired terrorism in Australia is to do our best to be friendly towards Muslim people on the personal level.
“However, we could only have the inter-faith street party if our new neighbours believed it was a safe thing to do.
“After the antics from the protesters outside the house last Saturday, I have my doubts.”
Gold Coast City councillors recently voted to refuse an application to transform an old factory at Currumbin Waters into an Islamic place of worship.