Prof. Nasir Butrous "Exploring Iraq Today: Implications for Christians and Muslims in Australia" (19 November, 2014)

Monday 24 November 2014
By David Schutz, Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission
ON Wednesday 19 November, approximately 80 people – mainly Catholic, but also Anglicans and Lutherans – gathered in the Cathedral Room of the Cardinal Knox Centre to hear Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission member Associate Professor Nasir Butrous speak about the current situation in Iraq and the implications of the conflict for Christian-Muslim relations in Australia.
To listen to a recording of the talk: Click here
To download Nasir's presentation (including maps): Click here
To download Denis Stanley's introduction: Click here
Nasir is a Chaldean Catholic and a native of the city of Mosul (Biblical Nineveh) in Iraq. He is the Associate Professor of Management at the Australian Catholic University (Faculty of Law and Business) in Melbourne. Nasir was previously a member of the Commission for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relationships in the Archdiocese of Brisbane. He has regularly spoken on his perspective on Islam from his lived experience of Catholic–Muslim relations both in Iraq and in Australia.

Very Rev. Denis Stanley, the Episcopal Vicar for Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations for the Archdiocese, introduced the evening by referring to Archbishop Hart's recent article i'Reach out to the Muslim community, we're all Aussies together' (The Australia, Sept 26, 2014). Fr Denis spoke about our discomfort with news and information that we find unpleasant or challenging:

'One of the most dangerously convenient gadgets that human beings have ever invented is the tv remote control. When anything you don't like or can't be bothered with appears on the tv screen, it's one simple click and we move on, until we find something we like. Click, click, click - it's easy to avoid the ugly, the brutal or violent and therefore to turn a blind eye not simply to the suffering of our fellow human beings, but also to our need to struggle with the injustices and the complexities that cause that suffering… This evening none of us, I hope, have brought our tv remotes.'

Nobody needed them! For the next hour, Nasir kept the gathered company spell-bound as he addressed issues such as the current situation in Iraq and its historical background, the different Christian and Muslim communities of Iraq, the rise and nature of Islamic State, and ways to strengthen relationships between Christians and Muslims in Australia today. The only thing clear about the situation is how complex it is. Nasir used a very comprehensive powerpoint slideshow with many maps to give visual clarity to the situations about which he was talking.

Also present for the presentation were Sheikh Riad Galil, Imam of the West Heidelberg Mosque and past-President of the Jewish Christian Muslim Association. Mr Albert Isaacs, a Jewish member of the Council of Christians and Jews, was also present. As an example of interfaith dialogue, Nasir referred to the recent Joint Journey to Jerusalem in which he, together with Riad and Albert and nine other Australians, participated. During the questions and answers, Sheikh Riad gladly brought his own expertise to the floor.

One thing that members of the Commission noted about the evening is that through it we made many new contacts with people who have not attended Commission events in the past. This is perhaps a sign that, while 'interfaith dialogue' as such may appeal only to a few, the need to develop good interfaith relations, and to address difficult topics together, is relevant to our whole community. It also demonstrated that, even when the topics are challenging and difficult, we are able to listen to and learn from one another in a respectful and deeply meaningful manner.

[At a later date, Nasir gave his presentation at Monash University. A Youtube video of that presentation is available here]

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