ACU interfaith prayer breakfast engages nation’s leaders

Published: Monday 6th July 2015


 Message from Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Craven 

Winter mornings in Canberra are usually cold occasions. However there was a special warmth inside Old Parliament House when Australian Catholic University hosted the inaugural Federal Parliamentary Interfaith Prayer Breakfast on June 17.

Politicians from the main parties in both Houses of Parliament joined together with community leaders from 30 different faiths and ACU stakeholders in a celebration of diversity and tolerance.

ACU's Mission and engagement within the Catholic Intellectual Tradition was clearly evident at the interfaith prayer breakfast. 

The Prayer Breakfast was a real opportunity for leaders from across the political and religious spectrum to share a meal together and reflect on the bigger picture. 

It was an invaluable experience and signaled a unity of spirit that exists across political and faith boundaries. 

It also provided an opportunity for our civic leaders to reflect on the important role prayer and faith play in the lives or all Australians and in informing public debate.

It was a joy for ACU to create a community event in which our leaders could break bread and join us in our morning prayers.   

We were privileged to be joined by the Prime Minister Tony Abbott together with the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten who both spoke about faith in their public and private lives. 

Abbott praised the work faith leaders do for the common good and said that it was valuable to have a faith to provide support through difficult times at ACU’s inaugural federal parliamentary interfaith breakfast held in Canberra last week.

“Faith matters, and these days it is more important than ever that we have faith,” Mr Abbott said. “Faith doesn’t make us good but, by God, it makes us better. There is a judge over us who is greater than those who are sitting in judgment of us today.”

We also heard from seven faith leaders who recited prayers in their own traditions for good government, good leadership and the future wellbeing and prosperity of our country.

Faiths represented at the breakfast included leaders from Australia's Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Baha'i communities. Leaders from Christian churches were also there including Baptist, the Salvation Army, the Uniting Church, Coptic Orthodox, Assemblies of God the Wesley Mission and other denominations.

It was significant that the inaugural interfaith prayer breakfast occurred midway through World Refugee Week, and the 50th anniversary year of Vatican II's ground-breaking Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions (Nostra Aetate). 

The keynote address was delivered by Dr Stepan Kerkyasharian AO, President of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board and for 25 years the Chair and CEO of the Community Relations Commission for a Multi-Cultural NSW, who spoke on the need now more than ever for religions and faiths that in their own differing ways to lead us collectively and in harmony to the highest and purest ideals of human co-existence. 

ACU director of Identity and Mission, Father Anthony Casamento, said the event was a good example of how ACU lives out its Mission in pursuing dialogue and understanding, which are the hallmarks of Catholic Intellectual tradition.

“ACU is the only university well placed in the country to be called upon to draw so many diverse people and have the importance of faith placed so prominently in the public arena,” he said.     

Interfaith breakfasts have not been a part of the Australian tradition. ACU hopes that this interfaith parliamentary prayer breakfast presents federal politicians from all parties with the opportunity to meet and join together with leaders of different denominations, while faith leaders will have the opportunity to interact with parliamentarians and explain something of their traditions and culture to them. 

I hope the breakfast will become a regular event on the Federal Parliamentary, interfaith and University calendars.