A couple of days after the recent Christchurch Terrorist attack, a Muslim friend of mine wondered out loud to me whether the act of terrorism on the Christchurch mosques has its roots in some of the terrorist attacks around the world perpetuated by Muslims. It is likely to be a contributing factor because hate begets hate. However, the atrocity in Christchurch cannot be justified on any ground – not even on the grounds that other Muslims around the world ‘have done bad things’ – for if that were a justifiable excuse, then anyone can dish out violence on anyone simply on the grounds of their association with someone else who did bad things. The thing is, the Muslims in Christchurch were innocent. Most terrorist acts around the world have been on the innocents, no matter who perpetrated them. Our hope and prayer must be that everyone should start to see what hatred and bigotry can lead to. Let’s hope that our Christchurch incident does not add fuel to more hatred – be it to White Supremacists or to extremist Muslims.
In this Sundays’ Gospel passage, we see the idea of “Kharma” expressed by the people who approached Jesus. Pilate had killed some Galileans offering sacrifices, and he mingled their blood with that of the sacrifice they were offering, probably to mock them. The people who approached Jesus thought it must have been the sinful lives the Galileans lived that such a bad thing happened to them. Our Lord challenged their wrong thinking: “‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans?” The idea of “Kharma” is one that suggests that a bad action will somehow lead to bad things happening in return, as if ‘fate’ dishes out justice. While many today seem to subscribe to this idea of “Kharma”, it is not part of our Christian faith. Neither is it part of the Islamic faith. My muslim friend was simply pondering aloud how hatred begets hatred – he was not suggesting “Kharma”. Yet, in our secular times, there are many people who accept “Kharma” as the way the universe operates. They do so rather unthinkingly or superstitiously. What we Christians do believe is the personal judgment of God when we die, and Final Judgement at the end of time. In these, those who deliberately and knowingly choose to do evil acts may find themselves missing out on the final goal in life, which is full union with God, and the Resurrection on the Last Day. And that is NOT Kharma; that is free will! We believe also that through His grace, God offers us salvation. God calls us to repentance – to change our hearts, and our ways.
And the call to repentance is precisely the message in this Sunday’s Gospel. Twice in the first paragraph Our Lord said to His listeners: “If you do not repent you will perish!”, and made reference to the ‘tree that does not bear fruit’ to be akin to someone who is in the state of mortal sin, and have not repented. If we truly examine our hearts, there are many areas in life we can repent. Perhaps this Lent the Christchurch attack should also compel us to look at how we, as individuals and as a society, have sometimes seeded the message of hate when we villainize others who are different.
We have said to the world, through the words of our Prime Minister, that the acts of terrorism in Christchurch is ‘not us’ – it is not New Zealand. Let’s now work to rid our country of racism and hatred for those who are ‘different’. Perhaps with our example, the rest of the world, no matter what country or religion they belong, will ALL condemn every act of terrorisms and violence with the same words: “This is not us”. Let’s hope and pray that hatred does not beget hatred. May we repent. May the world repent.