Dave Andrews’ mission to bridge the spiritual divide between Christianity and Islam began under the most unlikely of circumstances, as an immediate response to the tragedy of 9/11.
“In the face of the rising anger and rage that was vented on vulnerable Muslim people in my community, the first thing I realised I needed to do was to go to visit my local mosque,” he said.
For a dedicated Christian, this act of solidarity with “fellow believers in the Abrahamic families of faith” was slightly daunting.
“I’d never been to the local mosque before, I didn’t know any of the people there, I didn’t know how they would welcome me or whether they would receive me,” he said.
“[But] they welcomed me in and they showed me how to wash and they taught me how to pray and I joined them in Friday prayers and we prayed that somehow God would bring our communities together even as we were being driven apart.”
Mr Andrews was speaking at the Bendigo Library on Tuesday night about his book The Jihad of Jesus “which he calls a handbook for reconciliation”.
“We believe we need to reclaim the concept of jihad from the extremists who’ve turned it into a byword of terror an reframe it in Koranic terms as a non-violent struggle for justice and we believe we need to reclaim Jesus from the extremists who use Jesus as a poster boy for Christian crusading against Muslims,” he said.
“The exciting thing for me is that as I’ve sat with people today and heard some of the stories of what’s happening in Bendigo, beneath the surface of the conflict the miracle is happening here.
“Christians and Muslims are reaching into the depths of their traditions, drawing on that spirit of compassion, reaching out to each other, taking the risk to support one another and developing interfaith groups who commit themselves to the welfare of everyone.”