Church defends 'Jesus loves Osama'

Australian prime minister says signs suggest church's priorities misplaced.

    One of the signs outside St Clement's
    Anglican church in Sydney [AFP]
    Some signs displayed at churches across Sydney had the footnote: "Jesus said: 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you'."
     

    "The bottom line to me is we're all sinners. He loves us all, no matter who we are or what we may have done"

    Alan Soden,
    New South Wales Baptist Union

    Several other churches in the city had similar signs urging prayers for Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda and the man blamed for the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington as well as a string of other attacks.
     
    A photograph of one sign was published in Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper on Thursday, prompting debate about whether it was a suitable message.
     
    Alan Soden, a spokesman for New South Wales Baptist Union, was quoted by Australia's ABC news saying that while he could understand people may be offended, the sign's message reflected Christian teachings.
     
    'Love our enemies'
     
    "[Jesus] said we should love our enemies as controversial as that may be," he said.
     
    "The bottom line to me is we're all sinners. He loves us all, no matter who we are or what we may have done."
     

    "I say to myself, 'If I were a relative of one of the victims of Osama's activities, I might take affront at this'"

    Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney

    Peter Jensen, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, said churches that posted the sign were obviously trying to illustrate Christian teaching that God loves everybody, no matter how bad their sins.
     
    But he told the Southern Cross radio: "I'm hesitant about it frankly, it's a bit misleading.
     
    "I say to myself, 'If I were a relative of one of the victims of Osama's activities, I might take affront at this'.
     
    "There is a truth in it [but] what we've [also] got to say is, Jesus doesn't approve of Osama. [The sign] makes it sounds like, 'Oh, Osama's doing the right thing'."
     
    Eighty-eight Australians died in the Bali nightclub bombings in October 2002 - attacks blamed on militant group Jemaah Islamiyah, said by Western intelligence to be the South-East Asian arm of al-Qaeda.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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