Photo Credit: Gosford Anglican Parish
[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] A group of anti-Islam protestors dressed as Muslims and interrupted a church service in New South Wales, Australia, yesterday. The group, from the far-right Party for Freedom movement, walked into Gosford Anglican Church as the Rector, the Revd Rod Bower, was delivering a sermon. They played Quranic verses through a bullhorn and mocked Islamic prayers while shouting anti-Islamic slogans.
“I think one of the most awful things was that we had some asylum seekers who fled an oppressive Muslim regime in the congregation this morning,” the Church later said on its Facebook page. “They thought they were going to be blown up. They were beside themselves with stress and were so traumatised. That was terrible to see.”
The protestors left the church peacefully after a few minutes of protest and Father Bower continued with his sermon, which was based on Luke 12:49-59, the Gospel reading set down in the lectionary of the Anglican Church of Australia. He was focusing on Jesus’ statement that he had not come to bring peace but division.
“That was the best sermon illustration I could have possibly had,” he told the congregation as he resumed the service. “You could have forgiven me for staging that, but I didn’t. I wish I had have, but I didn’t,” he joked.
He described the protest as “a classic example of scapegoating; a classic example of radicalised thinking.”
The church is well known throughout Australia and in many parts of the world for its controversial poster-board messages through which Father Bower expresses his opposition to Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, greetings to people of other faiths, and support for same-sex marriage. Last week, as details of the abuse of asylum seekers in detention camps on the island of Nauru was revealed in the Guardian, the Church posted a photo of an earlier sign which read: “Hell exists, and it's on Nauru.”
Gosford Anglican Church is well known for its active sign board. This message, “Hell exists and it’s on Nauru”, expresses support for refugees and asylum seekers.
Photo: Gosford Anglican Church / Facebook
In one of their own videos of the incident, one of the protestors said that the scene would be common place “with mass Third World immigration and Islam coming into Australia to take over.” He said: “This is the future of Australia with cultural diversity.”
Writing on Facebook, Father Bower said that “a right wing hate group violated our sacred space and traumatised and terrorised our congregation this morning.”
He said that the “hate filled people would have certainly claimed to be Christian” on last week’s national census in Australia, “but they know not Christ or his peace.” He said that had the group been “actual Muslims” their actions would be called terrorism.
“This is ‘radicalised Christianity’ and right wing terrorism and should be named as such,” he said.
He pointed out that comments by the group’s supporters on social media revealed that many mistakenly believed the church invasion was actually carried out by Muslim protestors rather than being a stunt by the group itself.