Coming together to promote understanding
On Wednesday 9 August 2017, Australian Catholic University (ACU) hosted the second Federal Interfaith Parliamentary Breakfast at the National Press Club in Canberra.
Around 220 guests attended, including 65 faith leaders and 30 federal parliamentarians. Guests were joined by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Greens Leader Richard Di Natale, each of whom spoke about the value to Australia of our multi-faith society.
The Prime Minister said Australia’s strength resided in its multicultural nature, representing every corner of the world and every faith.
“All of that diversity enriches us,” Mr Turnbull said. “One of the most important things for us to encourage our children to do… is to be curious about our friends, our neighbours’ histories, cultural histories, religious values, religious interests. Because the more we understand each other, the more enriched we are. Everybody's culture enriches everybody else's.”
Mr Shorten spoke of the importance of inclusion of people from all faiths and those of none.
“For Australians of faith, religion is a base to build upon in public life. It is what sustains us in private life. It is not an instrument of division or vilification. Values of faith can guide us in this modern world to be a guide for our children, whatever their circumstances.”
Senator Di Natale said faith communities serve an important role as social fabric.
“They provide a place to feel valued, supported and connected; the notion of love and of caring for each other,” he said.
“It is the common thread that runs through all the world’s religions. It is to be celebrated. It gives us a sense of belonging and deep connection. Interfaith communities are about bringing people together, building connections, building faith. We are all better because of it. We learn from each other.”
Guests also heard from Dr Conrad Hackett, Senior Demographer at the renowned Washington-based Pew Research Center, who set out Pew’s projections for religious identity and demographics around the world.
While, in Western countries, it is easy to think that the world is becoming less religious, Dr Hackett said, the overall global trend shows an increase in the proportion of people claiming to have a religious identity.
Dr Hackett noted that, by 2060, just 9 per cent of all babies will be born to religiously unaffiliated women, while more than 7-in-10 will be born to either Muslims or Christians.
Faiths represented at the breakfast included leaders from Australia's Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Baha'i communities. Christian denominations present included Roman Catholic, Anglican, Salvation Army, Uniting Church, Coptic Orthodox, Sukyo Mahikari, Syro-Malabar, United Pentecostal, Seventh Day Adventist, Quakers, Presbyterian, Lutheran and CRC Churches.
Leaders from five religions read prayers from their own traditions. They were:
- Mr Shahram Noorgostar, National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahai’s of Australia
- Ms Cecilia Mitra, Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils
- Most Reverend Amel Nona, Chaldean Archbishop of Australia and NZ
- Sheikh Ahmed Abdo, nominee of the Grand Mufti of Australia
- Rabbi Yaakov Glasman, Rabbinical Council of Australia and New Zealand
Initiated in 2014, ACU’s Parliamentary Interfaith Breakfasts provide an opportunity for politicians from all parties and leaders of different denominations to interact and learn about each other’s culture and traditions.