Billboards have emerged across Sydney, Australia, carrying the slogan “Jesus: a prophet of Islam.” The advertising campaign is being run by Islamic group “MyPeace,” which has said that the purpose of the campaign is to encourage interfaith relations between Christians and Muslims.
However, a number of Christians in the region have condemned the controversial campaign and called for the billboards to be removed, labeling them as provocative and offensive to Christianity.
Catholic bishop Julian Poreous, of the Archdiocese of Sydney, has clarified that for Christians Jesus was “more than a prophet” as the campaign suggests.
He said: “He is the Son of God. He is acclaimed Lord and Savior of humanity.”
MyPeace has claimed it means no offense by the campaign and that it simply is trying to show to everyone that Islam follows the teachings of Jesus too. By encouraging this common ground to be found between the two faith groups, the organization hopes closer interfaith communications can come about.
Bishop Poreous, however, commented: “In Australia with its Christian heritage a billboard carrying the statement `Jesus A prophet of Islam' is provocative and offensive to Christians.”
The bishop has also lamented that the incendiary campaign has the potential to damage relations between the Christian Church and the Muslim community.
“It is important that religions do not set out to antagonize those with differing beliefs. This would threaten the social harmony which we enjoy in Australia.
“Dialogue between the religions can only take place when it is founded in mutual respect. It is not fostered by provocative statements,” he said.
“For the sake of preserving social harmony and respect between major world religions these billboards should be withdrawn, along with others which carry messages directly offensive to Christians."
Interestingly, Diaa Mohamed of MyPeace, has reported to Fairfax, one of Australia’s leading media groups, that the campaign has received an “overwhelmingly positive feedback from Christians, atheists, Muslims, everyday Australians.”
MyPeace has said that it has decided to extend the campaign beyond the original four weeks, and follow-up billboards will carry even more controversial slogans such as “Holy Quran: the final testament," and “Muhammad: mercy to mankind.”
It is planned that the campaign will spread to buses running throughout Sydney.
Clayton Hinds also contributed to this article