Celebrating the diversity that unites us

Politicians and religious leaders broke bread together and shared their differences at ACU’s Parliamentary Interfaith Prayer Breakfast in Canberra.

Have the courage to be curious about the culture and history of others, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said at Australian Catholic University’s Parliamentary Interfaith Breakfast on Wednesday 9 August in Canberra.

Mr Turnbull, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Greens Leader Senator Richard Di Natale each addressed more than 200 parliamentarians, leaders from 24 religious faiths, and other guests at the National Press Club.

Associate Director and senior demographer at the Pew Research Center in Washington Dr Conrad Hackett gave an address drawing on his research into the changing trends of global religion. Five religious leaders delivered a prayer of faith and contemplation from their own tradition.

The Prime Minister said Australia was the most multicultural country, 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.”

Faith communities act as social fabric, said Senator Di Natale. “They provide a place to feel value, supported and connected; the notion of love and of caring for each other. 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.”

Dr Hackett said that while it may seem we are becoming less religious, much of the world is actually becoming more so.

Drawing on his research, he spoke of the changes in distribution of those who identify with each faith by geographic regions. Some of the changes can be attributed to religious switching from one faith to another, and a great deal of the movement is a reflection of the fertility rates of particular faith groups.  By 2055 to 2060, just 9 per cent of all babies will be born to religiously unaffiliated women, while more than seven-in-10 will be born to either Muslims or Christians.

Leaders from five religions led the room in a separate prayer from their own tradition. 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 Prayer 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.


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