CNS News reports,
“Jesus: A prophet of Islam” states the provocative tagline in a “public awareness” advertising campaign launched by a Muslim group in Australia’s largest city.The group, calling itself Mypeace, says its aim is to inform, not offend – but offend it has, with one Catholic bishop calling the assertion about Jesus “a direct assault on Christian beliefs.”
Roadside billboards in the metropolitan Sydney area carry one of four simple slogans: “Jesus: A Prophet of Islam,” “Holy Qur’an: The Final Testament,” “Muhammad: Mercy to Mankind” and “Islam: Got Questions? Get Answers.”
Each banner invites people to get in touch by phone or online, for literature and a free copy of the Qur’an. Mypeace says the ads will stay up for four weeks, and later this year will be run on scores of public buses in the city.
One of the billboards featuring the Jesus slogan was vandalized a day after it was erected.
Mypeace says its aim is to “address the many misconceptions on Islam, to educate fellow Australians on Islam, invite them to ask any questions that they may have.”
Islamic awareness campaigns are not new, but the slogan referring to Jesus is causing a stir. Muslims and interfaith advocates sometimes invoke Jesus to assert some sort of commonality with Christians, implying that Muslims, too, “believe in Jesus.”
“In Australia with its Christian heritage a billboard carrying the statement ‘Jesus A prophet of Islam’ is provocative and offensive to Christians,” Julian Porteous, auxiliary bishop at the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, responded in an article.
“Central to Christianity is the belief that Jesus Christ is more than a prophet,” he said. “He is the Son of God. He is acclaimed Lord and Savior of humanity. This statement is a direct assault on Christian beliefs.”
Porteous said religions should not “set out to antagonize those with differing beliefs.”It is unfortunate that Bishop Porteous is so thin-skinned that a sign proclaiming Islamic doctrines offends him, but worse is his attempt to defend the faith in such a way that does more harm than good. His condemnation of "offensive" proselytizing is foolish and self-defeating. A fear of antagonizing those who disagree can only stifle debate and true ecumenicism. Instead of sitting inside the fortress Church and complaining about Islam, Bishop Porteous ought to go out and engage Muslims and other unbelievers in an attempt to win more souls to the Church. Catholics need to stop being the Church Wimpy and start being the Church Militant.
“Dialogue between the religions can only take place when it is founded in mutual respect. It is not fostered by provocative statements.”