The importance of championing diversity and inclusion were key themes at Australian Catholic University’s fifth Parliamentary Interfaith Breakfast at Parliament House in Melbourne yesterday.
More than 150 guests attended, including more than 45 faith leaders and 40 Victorian state parliamentarians.
Former NSW premier and ACU chancellor John Fahey welcomed guests, while Victorian Deputy Premier James Merlino and Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien gave speeches that noted that our strength as a community rested in our shared values of diversity and inclusion.
The leaders of five different faiths delivered readings on the importance of religious freedom, leadership, service and community harmony, and prayed for wise deliberations and good governance.
Mr Merlino said: “One of Victoria’s greatest strengths is its history of multiculturalism and religious diversity. We are uniquely home to a culture that aims to ensure people of all backgrounds and beliefs can freely and proudly practice their faith.
“That is why a breakfast like this is so important. We know that our state is infinitely stronger because we refuse to let those differences divide us - we use those differences to unite all of us.”
Mr O’Brien said a harmonious multicultural society requires a “genuine appreciation of our differences”.
“Together it is our responsibility to foster this interfaith understanding and to protect religious freedoms as an essential element of ensuring community harmony.”
Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan said events such as the breakfast “play an important role in shaping the framework of rights protection in Australia”.
“Interfaith dialogue is a powerful tool for overcoming bias through open communication, empathy and education,” Mr Tan said.
Melbourne Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli said the breakfast was a “simple and joyful celebration of our freedom in Australia to practise our religion”
“It is inspiring to see members of Parliament sharing a coffee with religious leaders and listening to them with respect. We need more moments like this in contemporary Australia,” Archbishop Comensoli said.
ACU vice-chancellor Greg Craven said Australians were extremely fortunate to live in a country that valued human rights and the ability to observe our own faiths.
“These should not be privileges; they should be fundamental to our existence as individuals, and collectively as a community,” Professor Craven said.
The importance of religious freedom examined at interfaith breakfast (Melbourne Catholic)