Could you move to Australia and become our Prime Minister

Jacinda Adern was recently sent a letter from a 13 year old Australian born Muslim girl in which she ends saying – “I’m sure you will remain Prime Minister of New Zealand for a long time. But if not, do you think maybe you could move to Australia and become our Prime Minister? That would be a dream come true.”

Many world leaders, like this 13yr old, have rightly praised Jacinda on her leadership through this tragedy. But it isn’t just Jacinda.  This response is part of the best of New Zealanders. If the National party was now in government, then Bill English would have been Prime Minister through this time. I am very sure that Bill and his wife Mary would have shown the same shared humanity, depth of compassion and care for the Muslim community. Regardless of our politics let’s encourage the very best responses from ourselves and others. You can read the full and very inspiring letter here.

Speaking of the very best response, how will the leaders of the Crusaders respond to the very real concerns around the continued use of the Crusaders name for our local rugby team? Recently Dave Andrews, who spoke here a couple of years ago, wrote to the Crusaders team saying:

Dear Canterbury Crusaders

It is with great respect I write to you, as I acknowledge you are the most successful professional club rugby team in the world and in 23 years of Super Rugby you have won 9 titles, been finalists 14 times, semi finalists 18 times – and the only Super Rugby team to complete a whole season undefeated.

I note with great interest that, in the light of the recent ‘Crusade’, that resulted in the slaughter of 50 defenceless Muslims in Christchurch, as a Christchurch team, you are considering renouncing your name as the ‘Crusaders’.

If you were to do so, this would be a decision, that be gladly welcomed, not only by Muslims in Christchurch, but also Muslims all around the world – and people like myself, who are working for peace between the Christian and Muslim communities.

While the word ‘Crusader’ has a heroic ring in Christian ears, our Muslim brothers and sisters hear the word ‘Crusader’ and fear it represents a bloody harbinger of mass slaughter.

In 1095 Pope Urban II called for a ‘Crusade’, or ‘Holy War’, to be led by ‘Christian Knights’, who would take up arms and sally forth to fight against the ‘enemies of Christ’. ‘Cursed be the man who holds back his sword from shedding blood!’ was the blood-curdling cry of Pope Gregory VII ringing in the ears of the dedicated ‘Soldier of Christ’. So, away they went. And, the Crusaders threw themselves, body and soul, into the task of killing so called ‘heretics’ and ‘heathens’ – mainly Muslims.

In 1096 the People’s Crusade sacked Belgrade, which next to Constantinople, was the greatest non-Catholic Orthodox City in the world. And, in 1204, the Crusaders attacked Constantinople itself – raping, pillaging and plundering this great Christian City, in the name of Christ, without mercy.

In the meantime, the Crusaders also managed to assault the Holy City of Jerusalem, and slaughter its Jewish and Muslim inhabitants. It was a massacre. Nicetas Choniates, a Byzantine historian, wrote at the time, with evident distress, that ‘even the Saracens are merciful …compared these men who bear the Cross of Christ on their shoulders’.

But Raymond of Aguilers enthusiastically eulogized the massacre as ‘a just and marvelous judgment of God’: ‘Wonderful things were to be seen. Numbers of Saracens were beheaded …. Others were shot with arrows, or forced to jump from towers; others were tortured for several days, then burned with flames. In the streets were seen piles of heads and hands and feet. One rode about everywhere amid the corpses of men and horses. In the Temple of Solomon, the horses waded in blood up to their knees, nay, up to their bridle. It was a just and marvelous judgment of God, that this place should be filled with the blood of unbelievers. ’

Over the course of two centuries, thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Muslims were slaughtered in the Crusades. And Muslims have not forgotten these Crusades. In fact many Muslims refer to the invasion of Iraq, in which more than a hundred thousand innocent civilians have been slaughtered, as the Tenth Crusade.

For you to renounce the name ‘Crusader’, because of its association, for our Muslim brothers and sisters, with the slaughter that they have been subjected to once again, would be a courageous act of reconciliation worthy of the world’s leading rugby club.

Your sincerely, Dave Andrews