lørdag 29. mars 2008

Fitna - the movie

I have just watched the controversial film made by the Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders. ”Fitna” is an Arabic word that can mean strife, upheaval or civil war. With the combination of Qur’an quotations and images it creates the impression that Islam is a religion of terror and violence, and naturally it has caused a lot of reactions.

While the film claims to portrait Islam, in reality it only portrays a particular stream within Islam, a stream that has many names: Fundamentalism, islamism, extremism among others. There are as many sides to Islam as there are sides to the Christian civilisation. If we say that it is this violent kind of Islam that is the real Islam, we say the same as the islamists themselves, those who claim to be the only true Muslims.

Muslims can do the same to us if they want – and many do. The image most Muslims have of Christianity is a religion that occupies their countries, bombs their cities and kills their children. The ”Christian” countries are societies that permit immorality of all kinds and that are doomed to destruction.

”Do to others what you would have them do to you”, our Lord taught his disciples. If we want Muslims to speak truthfully about us, we need to be truthful when we speak about Muslims. Showing a one-sided picture is not being truthful. Muslims and Christians live side by side in many countries of the world. We must do all we can to live peacefully with each other. The movie ”Fitna” does not help create an atmosphere of peace.

On the other hand – Muslims who respond with treaths and violence to this film, only confirm the one-sided image people in the West have of Islam and Muslims – that Islam is a religion of violence and hatred. Muslim leaders in Norway have responded wisely to the film – condemning it as insulting and divisive, but denouncing violent responses.

mandag 24. mars 2008

The journey goes on

Yesterday we had a good celebration of Easter in Bergen International Church. Here is a summary of my talk:

The last few weeks we’ve been on a “Journey to Jerusalem” with Jesus and his disciples. We’ve followed our Lord on his way to Jerusalem, where he was arrested, tortured, crucified and buried in the tomb. The journey ended in Jerusalem – or so they thought.

In our gospel reading (John 20:1-18), we heard about Mary Magdalene, who was the first to discover the empty tomb and the first to see the risen Lord. She too had been on the journey to Jerusalem with the other disciples. She must have been sure her journey had come to an end there, but now her journey went on as she ran back to the disciples to tell her story. And she probably continued to tell her story the rest of her life.

The same happened to the other disciples. The journey didn’t end in Jerusalem, but went on. The other reading we heard today was from Acts 10, where Peter speaks to Cornelius. After the persecution that broke out in Jerusalem following the stoning of Stephen, the disciples were spread around the country. Peter was one of those who travelled around, preaching the gospel to the Jews. His vision before his encounter with the Roman officer Cornelius convinced him that the gospel should be shared with the Gentiles too. For Peter, the journey went on all the way to Rome, where he served as the first bishop before he ended his life crucified upside down. All the other apostles too, except John, were killed as martyrs. For them too the journey didn’t end in Jerusalem – it went on from there. Tradition tells us that they travelled in different directions as they preached the gospel.

How about us? What about our journey? Each of us has our own spiritual journey to travel. The first goal in this journey is Jerusalem. There you must first come to the cross, where you can take off all your burdens. Then you stay in Jerusalem another three days, until Easter morning, when you come to see the empty tomb. At the tomb you rejoice with Mary and Peter and John when you realise that Jesus is no longer there.
And you receive a new assignment. Jerusalem is no longer your goal, but your starting point.
And your new goal is the world. The whole world. Starting with where you are right now.
The journey goes on.

Some of you will travel home soon, after you have ended your assignment here in Norway.
Some of us have left Norway to bring the gospel to another country. Some of you have come to stay here in Norway, bringing the gospel to us. Whover you are, wherever you go, our assignment is the same as for the apostles: To be witnesses of the cross and the empty tomb, just as Peter said to Cornelius when he preached: He said that Jesus had ordered the apostles “to preach everywhere and testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all – the living and the dead. He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.”