Meet Hate with Love

Simon Smart writes in the wake of the stabbing attack on Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel about the radical act of meeting hate with love.

While Sydneysiders tried to come to terms with the unfathomable horrors of Saturday’s murder spree in Bondi, they woke today to the news of the stabbing of a Bishop and priest while conducting a church service on Monday night. Police say it was a terrorist attack.

Unlike the killings in Bondi that left nobody with an enemy to pursue or a group to target, the Wakeley attack provided all the ingredients of a religious bonfire waiting to be lit.

The near riot that ensued as supporters rushed to the church and then attacked police has politicians and community leaders on high alert. Fears of tit-for-tat violence are real. It is, after all, a completely natural human instinct to weaponise our anger and to seek revenge for wrongs committed.

But witnesses say Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel, despite being seriously injured, immediately began praying for his attacker and offering forgiveness. It’s an extraordinary reaction.

Leila Abdallah, who famously forgave the drunk driver who killed three of her children, wrote on Instagram that the bishop’s response to his assailant was “the message of forgiveness that defines our beliefs.”

All of this reminds me of when Martin Luther King’s home in Birmingham was firebombed early in his civil rights campaign. A mob of his angry supporters gathered on his front lawn intent on finding the culprits and administering rough justice. King addressed the gathering, urging them to go home; to love their white brothers no matter what, and calling on them to follow the example of Jesus meeting hate with love.

The world seems more unhinged. This kind of rare and radical love might be the only thing that will, as Robert Kennedy said on hearing of MLK’s death, “tame the savageness of man” and “make gentle the life of this world.”

This column first appeared on Facebook.