The Gold Coast where I live has hit the news headlines this last week as a group of Christians petitioned, and protested against the establishment of a Muslim school in Carrara. Australian International Islamic College, based in Durack, Brisbane, is proposing to build the Gold Coast’s first Muslim school right next door to the Dream Centre, a large AOG church.
Tony Doherty, a minister with the Dream Centre, is coordinating the Concerned Carrara Residents Group, mobilizing the local residents against the proposed school. The group’s expressed concerns are about the increase in traffic, reduced security, the disturbance of the peace (look how upset the group is and the school hasn’t started yet), a lack of community cohesion relating to the long standing churches and social clubs in the area, a concern that a separated Muslim community would take over the area, and the loss in property values.
It’s obvious that this protest is based on a concern about the school being Islamic. There’s a major school just down the road run by an interdenominational group of Christians that would have ten times the amount of traffic.
One of the comments from the Church is that it doesn’t make sense to have a Muslim community next to a Christian community. Where else would you place them if you wanted them to live harmoniously within the wider community?
I think it’s time to affirm what being Australian means. We live in a secular society, in which people of all walks of life can have access to education and employment, no matter what their creed. That includes access to State schools, as well as the right to provide faith-based education that fits with the State’s syllabus.
It’s also time to reaffirm the meaning of Christian hospitality, in which people are welcomed and treated with respect, no matter where they’ve come from. It’s Plan Be – treat others as you would have them treat you.
I’m working on gathering Christians interested in a more welcoming conversation with the Muslim community on the Gold Coast, picking up on the “Coexist” focus of the Project Abraham community formed back in 2005. Let me know if you’d like to be involved or kept informed.