Church threatened over Anzac Day sign
AN ANGLICAN church on the NSW Central Coast has been subjected to a number of vile threats after posting its Anzac Day message to Facebook.
Father Rod Bower, the rector of Gosford Anglican Church, regularly attracts attention for the messages he posts on his from billboard.
On Anzac Day, Father Rod and his team decided to mirror the exact tweet that ran Muslim activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied out of the country.
Last year on Anzac Day, Ms Abdel-Magied tweeted "Lest We Forget (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine ...)" and quickly became the subject of the nation's fury.
Father Rod said he was inspired to support Ms Abdel-Magied after she stood up "for the world's most vulnerable".
"We wanted to honour those who sacrificed their lives so many years ago - they stood up against tyranny, and I am going to continue to honour them by doing that," Father Rod told news.com.au.
Hours after the reverend posted the church's new billboard to Facebook, "the trolls started to get organised", Father Rod said.
"We expected that, the alt-right wing trolls regularly target us," he said.
Father Rod said the most fascinating part of the backlash was that people were still taking their anger out on Ms Abdel-Magied, rather than him.
"The trolls struggled to target me, they were hating me through [Yassmin]. I was getting abused for saying what she said.
"It's much harder to attack a white, Christian male compared to a brown, Muslim female. Even if I said it, they still attacked her," he said.
The church's post quickly went viral on Facebook, amassing close to 2000 shares and 5000 reactions.
But it was one person's comment that had Father Rod calling the police.
An Australian Defence Force member was one of those outraged by the church's post, commenting, "I'll set that church on fire."
In a subsequent Facebook post, Father Rod wrote: "This is the first time a member of the Australian Defence Force has threatened to burn our church down.
"We have had other occasional threats of arson, always from the extreme right of our nation's political spectrum, ironically from the very same people who warn that Muslims will 'burn your churches down'. A Muslim has in reality, never threatened me in any way.
"This threat was precipitated by my post on Anzac Day asserting that "the most meaningful way to honour their sacrifice is to continue to oppose tyranny in all its forms and expressions," he wrote.
After speaking to the Australian Defence Force, it was discovered that the man was no longer a serving member. The man eventually removed his comment.
The matter has now been passed onto NSW Police.
Father Rod laughed off people threatening to burn the church down, telling news.com.au it was "a 1960s concrete building and is probably impossible to burn down".
"There's this renewed form of nationalism sweeping the Western nations right now and it's emboldening this kind of threatening behaviour," he said.
Father Rod said the veteran's threat to burn the church down wasn't the worst they'd received but it did "highlight some of the culture the army is seeking to address".
In his initial Facebook post, Father Rod called for an end to the way Australia treats its refugees.
"I join with so many other voices today in calling for the cessation of the degradation of some of the world's most vulnerable people for political purposes.
"We must remember what we are doing to refugees and asylum seekers on #Manus and #Nauru along with the harm we continue to cause #FirstNations people.
"I believe that this particular approach to the commemoration of this very special day in our nation's history helps to guard against the slide into destructive nationalism that seems to be being attached to #AnzacDay," he wrote.