On the weekend I visited my first Australian mosque.
I’ve been to mosques before when travelling overseas, particularly in Morocco and Turkey. But when I heard about the National Mosque Open Day, I realised that I had never been inside a mosque within my own country, as a fellow-citizen rather than as a tourist.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the day, even what to wear. What I experienced was remarkable hospitality. We were warmly welcomed to Lakemba Mosque by members and taken on a tour inside. Information was offered on different aspects of Islam, and there was a lot of space for asking questions. The morning’s highlight was a Q&A time with the community’s Sheikh. He responded to all sorts of questions about Islam and the place of the mosque within the wider Lakemba community. (And we were offered freshly squeezed orange juice and baklava before we left.) I was impressed by the generosity of our hosts and the way they opened up their space for curious visitors.
It made me wonder what people experience when they enter our church building. It’s a space that seems like home for those of us who belong to the community of faith here. But for others, the same uncertainty applies: Who will I meet here? What will they want from me? What questions can I ask? What should I wear? I hope that those who visit us at Hope Uniting Church receive the same warm welcome that I received last weekend at Lakemba Mosque, no matter their questions, or dress or uncertainty.
And, while we may not have baklava to offer, Sofi and John do cook an amazing BBQ!