Bishop slams attempts to stir up fear between Christians and Muslims
The Catholic bishop of Waterford and Lismore has hit out at "small political groups" trying to "stir up fear and suspicion between Muslims and Christians" in Ireland.
Bishop Phonsie Cullinan said he was shocked to learn some of those who took part in a rally in Dublin last weekend had given Nazi salutes.
The incident was witnessed by Green Party councillor Hazel Chu, who has been subjected to racist abuse on social media and in person.
Speaking to the Irish Independent in Butlerstown, Co Waterford, yesterday, Dr Cullinane said he was "absolutely shocked" to learn about the Nazi gesture.
"It is offensive, negative and a backward step. That is not what people of decent morals and values want," he added.
Asked about attempts by some anti-immigrant campaigners to exploit Christian symbols such as crosses to promote their message he said: "This is not the way of Christ. Christ is a man of peace."
He added that interpersonal relationships and friendships break down fears and barriers.
"We can see unfortunately around the world that there are small political groups trying to stir up fear and suspicion and this is causing divisions in society which is not good.
"It is when there is no dialogue that fear and suspicion begins to grow and this is where terrorists and extremists and the tiny minority who don't want peace begin to stir up these fears - so dialogue is essential."
Dr Cullinan paid tribute to the many Muslims "living in total peace" in his diocese of Waterford and Lismore who he said are "getting to know us and we are getting to know them. We share a common humanity and see that we are all struggling through life and we need to help each other."
The bishop was speaking as he attended the launch of the book 'Murder in the Missions', which tells the story of two Irish missionaries, Fr Des Hartford and Fr Rufus Halley, who promoted dialogue between Muslims and Christians in the Philippines.
Butlerstown parish was the home parish of Fr Rufus Halley. He was murdered by Muslim extremists in August 2001 in Mindanao.