1 Kings 21:17-29
Matthew 5:43-48


At present, I am in the USA, raising funds for our missions in PNG and Vietnam. It is a great gift to see the generosity and friendliness of our brothers and sisters there.

Unfortunately, for a lot of people, their knowledge of Australia is limited to two things, Crocodile Dundee and Men at Work.

Last Monday, after doing some shopping, I decided to pop into a bar for a quick beer.

I was just after a quick quiet one, when the guy sitting next to me struck up a conversation. He wanted me to buy some raffle tickets for the church at Our Lady of the Snows. So, I presume he is a catholic man. He was probably my age. I declined the offer as I would be unable to collect the prize, so he asked if all Australians were that tight and cheap!!!

I should have seen that red light about his attitude, anyway, I’m a slow learner. I mentioned that I taught English in Indonesia. I said to him, as I always say, Indonesians are the friendliest people I have ever met. They are the largest Muslim nation by number, and I find them just wonderful people.

After the remark about being tight, I should have been prepared for his response. I was subject to an anti-Muslim rant.

He claimed that Indonesia is “Al Qaeda headquarters and that the 9/11 terrorists trained there before they flew the planes into the Twin Towers.” (When I got back to the monastery, I checked this, and there is no evidence to support these claims).

“Aren’t you afraid of Muslim terrorists?” he asked. “Yes, I am, but I’m not scared of Muslims. Most of them are just good people”.

His response, “I’ll just say two numbers. 9. 11.”

I know 9/11 was a terrible thing. Indiscriminate carnage, Pure Evil. Random and innocent victims. I later learned that 31 Muslims died on 9/11, 28 in the Twin Towers and 3 on the planes. But to blame a whole group of people for the deadly actions of much lesser number, would not be helpful to anyone. And to hate one nation who had nothing to do with it, does not make sense. Indonesia itself has been the subject of deadly Al Qaeda attacks.

I tried to share some common sense with this guy. I mentioned to him that I couldn’t recall any Indonesians in the cockpit that day. I also tried to explain that terrorists are just a rather tiny component of a much larger Muslim population. “Do me a favour”, he said. “Visit the Twin Towers.”

I have. And I will again.

As my dad used to say, “You can’t educate mugs”!

We hear in our readings this week that forgiveness is at the heart of our Christian faith.

Forgiveness is not acquiescence. If you are in an abusive relationship, please seek help. Jesus’ call to forgive should not be wrongly used to manipulate people into staying in abusive relationships. Seek out safety first.

And forgiveness is not forgetting. It is wise for us to learn that not all people seek to do us well. Some seek evil and hurt upon us. Learn, wipe the dust from your feet, and move on.

Forgiveness is remembering and letting go. Forgiveness is not just about the wrong that was done. instead, it is a powerful act that involves freeing ourselves from the prison of anger, bitterness, and the desire for revenge.

Peter Gardiner is a Passionist priest, living in Sydney. He is mostly involved in Outreach work, and teaching English.