Bali Bombings, my Homily at St Patrick’s Cathedral, 20 October 2002
The Gospel passage today (Matthew 22.15-21) has much to say about the events in Bali, which have shocked the nation and the world.
At the regular meeting of the Islamic Council of Victoria and the Victorian Council of Churches held last Wednesday, all members, Muslim and Christian alike, expressed their horror at the massacre at Kuta. We drew up a statement, which has been sent to the major newspapers declaring in the most unambiguous terms that any attack on innocent civilians is contrary to the teaching both of Islam and of Christianity. While these world religions do indeed allow for the possibility of a just war in very limited and precise circumstances, the Bali bombing is an atrocity offensive to God and humans alike.
In today’s Gospel Jesus clearly states: “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”. In other words, the state has its just demands and God too has rights. They must not be confused or opposed. However, history shows many instances where they have in fact been confused. The state, for instance, has occasionally suppressed religious rights. One need think only of the many dictatorships of the twentieth century. Reasons of state have been used to inflict terrible injustices. Leaders have in fact discredited the state for the sake of the state. History also shows many occasions where Churches have tried to control the state. Indeed so-called devout people have committed crimes in the name of religion. God’s worst enemies are found among those who claim to be the most loyal disciples. They are the hypocrites.
The events in Bali show the imperative need for just laws and their intelligent observance. “Give to Caesar what belong to Caesar.” The attacks also show the absolute necessity of following wisdom of faith.
The violence in Bali must not be imitated here in Australia. There must be no attacks on mosques or on Muslims. The explosion on Bali must not oppose Islam and Christianity. It must not destroy the bond between Indonesia and Australia. It must not destabilise Indonesia. The destruction must be contained and not lead to revenge.
God and Caesar are not opposed but cooperate for the good of all. The violence at Kuta is best met with the measured cooperation of both Church and State. Indeed, God and Caesar, the divine and the human elements are already cooperating at this point of time by our gathering in prayer here at St Patrick’s today and by our committing the resources of government to the service of the injured and the dead both in Indonesia and in Australia. We draw strength both from the transcendent God and from the many agencies of government and diplomacy, from prayer and from the police and medical personnel.
The attack is known but the attackers are not known. We can assess the act but not the meaning of the act. Why was the crime committed? We do not yet understand and must not draw unwarranted conclusions. But we know our own response. We shall react with wisdom and vigour. We will show compassion to all, to the innocent and even to the guilty.
Deep problems lie behind the generalised explosion of violence and terror in our world. We need to reflect deeply on their causes. Let us examine our consciences as individuals. Let States and multi-national companies examine their economic and geo-political priorities. The terrible events may yet be turned to good.
Today the Catholic Parishes throughout Melbourne celebrate Mission Sunday. May both Church and State become signs of unity and instruments of peace.