The next time you see a Muslim Australian say "hello," smile and start a conversation. We are all part of the same community, and we have to learn to understand each other and get on, writes Archbishop Denis Hart in The Australian.
Brutal attacks by the forces of Islamic State on Christian, Yazidi, Muslim and other religious and ethnic minorities in northern Iraq continue to be a deep concern. We can feel so remote from the conflict it is hard to know how to help. But we can act in our own country to promote peace.
A higher terrorism alert level, police raids on terror suspects, the deployment of Australian military forces, Islamic State urging attacks in Australia and a tragic fatality in Melbourne have led to increased tensions in the community. There have been reports over the past fortnight of abuse and threats directed at both Muslims and Christians.
The challenge for Australians is how we relate to each other on a personal level. Do we replicate the divisions and threats seen overseas, or do we respond differently?
We must not fall into the trap of adopting the conflicts of another region as our own. We shouldn’t isolate people so their grievances and resentments are allowed to fester. Rather than exclude or shun people because of their religious beliefs, we should reach out to them as fellow Australians.
The purpose of terrorism is to divide and conquer. It is to shatter the trust that holds communities together and replace it with suspicion and fear. But distrust and fear only dominate if we let them.
The burden of suspicion has fallen on the minority Muslim community in Australia because of the actions of extremists. That is not fair, and we should not allow it to continue.
We should let the law enforcement authorities investigate and prosecute criminal behaviour, whether by people of faith or none. Our job as Australians is to build and strengthen relationships in local communities.
The next time you see someone of Muslim background say "hello," smile and start a conversation. We need to talk to each other to find the common values we share. We are all part of the same community, and we have to learn to understand each other and get on.
FULL STORY Reach out to the Muslim community, we’re all Aussies together (The Australian)