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ACU Interfaith breakfast elevated to centre stage

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Sr Giovanni Farquer RSJ speaks with faith leaders at the annual Australian Catholic University Interfaith Parliamentary Breakfast. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Sr Giovanni Farquer RSJ speaks with faith leaders at the annual Australian Catholic University Interfaith Parliamentary Breakfast. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Amid the destruction, chaos and catastrophe taking place around the globe the annual Australian Catholic University Interfaith Parliamentary Breakfast has seen its importance elevated as a key opportunity for the nation’s faith leaders to unite to promote peace.

In a symbolic response to current global conflicts, this year’s gathering was held for the first time in the Great Hall of Parliament House, cementing the fundamental role of religion in Australian society.

Director of the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Commission for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations, Sr Giovanni Farquer RSJ was selected to lead more than 200 senior faith leaders and politicians in prayer ahead of the breakfast.

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She said that with the ongoing violence in the Middle East, and escalating religious tensions at home, the move to the Great Hall was an important step in recognising interfaith relations.

“It’s very significant that the event has been moved to Parliament House, as it the symbolic centre of our nation and it shows the commitment of us all working together,” she said.

“This event symbolises the social unity of our nation, of keeping Australians of all faiths united and at peace, while rejecting all forms of religious intolerance, aggression and vilification.”

Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen, representing Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, acknowledged the adversity facing people of all faiths and our need to remain united.

“This is a difficult time for many of our friends across the faith groups. This is a recognition that there is more that unites us than divides us,” he said

Bowen added that even though the conflict is a world away, it has a real impact here at home, which is why we must work even harder for peace in our local communities.

“International events are not isolated to our television screens and newspapers, but have implications for all people of faith on our streets and in our communities here on the other side of the world,” Bowen said.

Representing the federal opposition was Shadow Minister for Defence Andrew Hastie, who spoke of his own formation growing up in Ashfield as the son of Presbyterian Minister.

“In our church, we had an English service, Korean service, Mandarin Chinese service and a Western Samoan service,” Hastie said.

“It was a great picture of diversity as those congregations met within the confines of a Victorian church built in the late 1880s.”

Hastie added that with more than half of Australians having a parent born overseas and identifying with a religion, the Australian success story is built on a strong foundation of faith.

“We are an open, accommodating, and liberal country because of the Judeo-Christian tradition which underpins our democracy,” he said.

“It is the Judeo-Christian values of equality, freedom, opportunity, gratitude, forgiveness and most importantly, tolerance which have coloured our national character and seen us open our arms to people from around the world.”

Speaker of the House of Representatives Milton Dick, who hosted the event, announced that if the ecumenical spirit on display was a permanent fixture of parliament, Australia would be a better place.

“If we can hold this event every day of the sitting week, I think our nation would be a lot stronger.”

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