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Annunciation unites Christians and Muslims

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Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2022

Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay has stressed the responsibility of religious leaders to “work together to keep building peace and security” during a time of anxiety and conflict in the world and close to home.

Celebrating together the feast of the Annunciation of Mary for the 13 time in as many years, Bishop Tarabay hosted the Interfaith Gathering on 21 April and opened his home to Christian and Islamic faith leaders to break bread and discuss the impending need for unity locally and internationally.

In his address, Bishop Tarabay highlighted the common theme of peace and respect between Christianity and Islam and the need for dialogue in order to maintain it, while condemning violence in the wake of last week’s tragedies in Bondi and Wakeley.

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“While our faiths differ in many respects, they are similar in that we celebrate the Annunciation to Mary, a moment of reflection, peace and unity,” Bishop Tarabay said.

“Tolerance is the only way to live together and jointly contribute to this extraordinary Australian society, so generous, so prosperous and so welcoming.

“Mary had trust, and she had faith. With these, she rose above her fears of the unknown, and like her we are called today to overcome fears and to transcend friction and divisions.

“Therefore, I call on all Christians to create more opportunities of encounter and dialogue. And I also call upon our Muslim brothers and sisters to build more bridges that bring people closer to one another.”

Supplied (Credit: Maronite Eparchy of Australia)

Religious leaders across Eastern Christian and Islamic communities came together, including Coptic Orthodox Bishop Anba Daniel, apostolic visitor for the Syriac Catholic church, Bishop Basilios Georges, representative of the mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Malek Zeidan, and representative of the Sheikhdom Akl of the Druze Unitarian Community, Sheikh Mounir Al Hakim.

Political leaders present included Minister for Multiculturalism Stephen Kamper, Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism Mark Coure, and chair of the Multicultural NSW Advisory Board, Nick Kaldas.

In a Q&A session that featured Melkite Bishop Rabbat, national grand mufti of Australia Sheikh Riad El-Rifai, Dr Mamdouh Matar and writer Anwar Harb AM, panelists were questioned about peace in a modern world.

Bishop Rabbat in his response to where peace lies today focused on the importance of humanity recognising a divine peace.

“God created every man and woman in his image and likeness. Seeing this truth adjusts our perspective of others,” Rabbat said.

Supplied (Credit: Maronite Eparchy of Australia)

Sheikh Rifai when questioned where harmony can be found centuries after the lives of Christ and the prophet Mohammed, said it would be in a society that promotes a “brave witness for peace and reconciliation, yet a realistic one that demands genuine and decisive change rooted in our heritage.”

Minister Kamper in his address highlighted the positive response from the communities after last week’s stabbings in Sydney.

“We faced a test of the very fabric of our multicultural and multifaith community,” he said, “when we could have easily strayed towards division, we didn’t. We chose unity. We chose to come together.”

“Just as the angel Gabriel brought tidings of joy and blessing to Mary, let us be messengers of peace and hope in our own communities and beyond.”

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