Same-sex marriage advocates would have been rattled by the sight of a 10,000-strong crowd of Christians from migrant communities gathered last weekend to express their opposition to the redefinition of marriage.
Eastern bishops, clergy, religious sisters and laity strongly voiced their rejection of same-sex marriage, in an impressive display of solidarity and unity.
Organised by the Eastern churches of Australia and backed by the Coalition for Marriage, the Festival of the Family, held at Fairfield Showground in Prairiewood on Sunday 8 October, was a lively celebration of traditional marriage and family, featuring rides, food stalls, music and dancing.
Many in the enormous crowd of ethnic Australians – both young and old alike – held placards stating, “You can say no.”
Bishop Robert Rabbat, from the Melkite Catholic Church, told those gathered that “the foundation of our society is faith and family” and that “history has shown that dictators, whenever they want to control a society, they make sure to break the family.”
He said the festival was a “great joy” because Eastern Christians had come together “as a family” to celebrate faith and family and to fight for freedom of speech.
Dr Pansy Lai from Australian Chinese for Families, who gathered over 17,000 signatures from Australian-Chinese parents against the Safe Schools program, also spoke.
“We parents have a say in what our kids get taught about life, relationships, sex and marriage. We parents are the ones who must speak up to protect our children because nobody is going to do it for us.”
Federal MP for Deakin, Michael Sukkar, was greeted with applause when he spoke about the bond between mothers and their children, saying, “I’ve learned you don’t come between a Lebanese mother and her kids.”
Coalition for Marriage spokeswoman Sophie York said the festival demonstrated that there is still plenty of life in the ‘No’ campaign.
“The people I met today are committed to working tirelessly to ensure that as many ‘no’ votes as possible are posted over the coming weeks.”
“Too often in this debate, the diverse voices of Australia’s migrant communities have been ignored. These people are the silent majority,” Ms York said.
Spokeswoman for the Coalition for Marriage, and Catholic Weekly columnist, Monica Doumit, said, “The community response to the event was simply extraordinary.
“It had only been advertised for a couple of weeks, but the huge response showed how important the marriage campaign is to the migrant communities.”
“Traditional values are very strong within these faith communities, and so it is unsurprising that they are fearless and tireless defenders of marriage and family,” Ms Doumit said.
Several Eastern churches were represented at the festival including the Maronite Catholics, Melkite Catholics, Coptic Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Assyrian, Armenian Orthodox, Antiochian Orthodox, Chaldean and Armenian Catholic.