NEWS | Kaley Payne
Thursday 6 November 2014
If you’re driving past a church this week and see what looks like the black and white flag of Islamic State, don’t be alarmed. Take a second look.
Outreach Media, who provide over 100 churches around Australia with posters for display on public signboards, have launched their November poster in hopes that it will “contrast the love of Christ with the… cruel behaviour of IS.”
The design mimics the Islamic State flag. The IS flag states in Arabic: “There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”. The Outreach Media poster quotes Matthew 5:44: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you – Jesus”.
Director of Outreach Media, Malcolm Williams, said many churches that regularly display the monthly posters were asking for a poster that expressed the church’s solidarity with Christians suffering persecution at the hands of Islamic State. Popular suggestions were for a design around the Arabic letter ‘N’, which has become a symbol for Christians in the Middle East.
Instead, he chose a design that would be more accessible to non-Christians and act as a conversation starter.
The chosen design is being put up outside churches this week, with an alternate version on offer that does not take the Islamic State flag design.
Approximately 100 cross-denominational churches, mostly in New South Wales, but also scattered around the country in Perth, Darwin and parts of Victoria and Queensland will display the poster. Only 12 churches opted to use the alternate version.
The most common reason cited for declining to use the new poster design were concerns the poster may in some way suggest that all Muslims are the enemy, rather than Islamic State.
“Some churches had just signed on to use the posters, and didn’t want to establish themselves in the community with one of the more provocative posters,” said Malcolm.
Malcolm says the point of the poster – as with each of the monthly posters offered to churches for display – is to start a conversation. But he says this month’s poster isn’t their most provocative.
“The ‘Jesus Loves Osama’ poster was the most provocative,” says Malcolm, speaking of an Outreach Media poster in 2007 that sparked national controversy. That poster carried the same Bible verse – Matthew 5:44 – as the Islamic State-inspired design this month.
“We’re having a conversation with the community,” says Malcolm. “So there’s all kinds of posters that go up in a year. Some ask questions. Others are humorous or whimsical. This is a time to say something serious and challenging.”
Malcolm knows that some churches are more keen to engage and challenge the community than others. “It depends where you are and who’s living in the community, too. So we’ve got to try and find messages that can work all across Australia.”