Influence starts with trust not burnt bridges

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Toowoomba, Queensland

Following last month’s second arson attack on the Toowoomba mosque this year, the city has rallied around the Muslim community.

My Christian faith beckons me to speak up for and stand with anyone being unjustly treated, and having your House of Worship burned certainly qualifies.

Local Christians and church leaders have been among those who have shown the strongest support.

Islamic Society of Toowoomba president Professor Shahjahan Khan said the leaders of the city’s Anglican and Catholic churches both phoned him to express their solidarity and he said hundreds of similar emails and calls had flooded in since the arson attack. 

Glenvale Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor Casey Wolverton is among the Church leaders who have condemned the attacks. 

“I abhor the actions of whoever tried to burn down the Toowoomba mosque, as do many people in this city,” he said. “My Christian faith beckons me to speak up for and stand with anyone being unjustly treated, and having your House of Worship burned certainly qualifies.”

Pastor Wolverton was so moved by the event that he challenged his congregation to consider how they could support the Garden City Mosque in light of the injustice they had experienced.

“I strongly encouraged my parishioners to attend the Islamic food festival as a show of support,” he said.

Last month’s Toowoomba International Food Festival is an event the Muslim congregation hosts annually at the Toowoomba mosque on West Street, but due to the extensive damage to their facility, they moved it to the USQ Clive Berghofer Recreation Centre.

3000 to 4000 people attended the food festival and Professor Khan said the festival ran out of food by the afternoon, because there were so many more attendees than expected.

Among those attending were Catholic Bishop Robert McGuckin, Anglican Bishop Cameron Vinables, Mayor Paul Antonio and Jim Madden MP representing Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Larissa Ferry, a member of Pastor Wolverton’s congregation, took up his challenge to attend the food festival.

“While it was a very small move on my part, I hope that attending helped the members of the mosque’s community feel supported,” she said. “And to show that Toowoomba residents care about what has happened to them and are willing to say out loud this has been an injustice in our community.” 

Pastor Wolverton said it was vital for Christians to show their support.

“I want to build relationships with Muslims to keep misunderstandings to a minimum, as well as create opportunities for dialogue about our respective faith traditions,” he said. 

“Influence starts with trust, and trust begins with friendship.”