The public nature of Islam has stirred a deep down unresolved anger in Christianity in Australia, one of the nation's leading theologians has claimed.
Former National Council of Churches president Reverend Professor James Haire said the widespread arrival of Islam, expressed publicly in a way of dress and lifestyle, had aroused frustration among some Christians used to their faith being marginalised to a private experience.
"There is this deep down unresolved anger within Christianity, which says if we can't be public you can't be either – these are the seeds of violence," he said.
"The arrival of other public religions [can] encourage Christianity to keep up."
The comment was part of a lively discussion between Reverend Haire and prominent Indonesian Muslim scholar Professor Azyumardi Azra which covered topics of refugees, burqas and niqabs and the co-existence of Christianity and Islam in front of more than 200 people at the Centre for Christianity and Culture on Wednesday night.
Professor Azra, 60, said Indonesia was a leading example of a majority Muslim country which had embraced both democracy and tolerance for other faiths, celebrating all major religious holidays. About 10 per cent of Indonesia's estimated 256 million people were Christian.
Reverend Haire, 69, a former president of the Uniting Church who has a long connection with Indonesia, said the two faiths were exclusive – claiming to be the one way to God – but had to live together and worked mainly by the "witness of their lives to the other".
His Islamic counterpart said he did not think Muslims and Christians could pray together, but there were shared backgrounds with mutual acceptance of the Old Testament, and acceptance of the laws of adopted countries was important.
"You have to have social and cultural sensitivity, otherwise there will be strong Islamophobia," he said.
Professor Azra said the wearing of the full veil by a Muslim woman was "more cultural than an Islamic teaching". He said Indonesia had one of the most modern marriage laws of majority Muslim countries, with polygamy allowed for a man only if a wife could not have children, and both a man or woman able to file for divorce.
Professor Haire, from Charles Sturt University, said national religious backgrounds had not been a clear factor in recent offers to resettle refugees, with Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan the hardest hit.
"Wealthy Gulf states have sadly not taken many, but there has been enormous numbers of refugees moving from, for example, Afghanistan to Pakistan, and there have been large movements of population between Muslim states in Africa," he said.