Clergy from the Roman Catholic, Melkite Catholic, Maronite, Antiochian Orthodox, Armenian Catholic, Coptic Orthodox and Assyrian Churches were joined by two reality TV singers and 350 parishioners in an ecumenical all-star concert for peace in the Middle East.
The One in Christ concert, organised by the Melkite Catholic Eparchy and held at St Michael’s Cathedral in Darlington on 2 December, was headlined by The Voice Season 8 winner Diana Rouvas and Australian Idol semi-finalist Cosima de Vito.
It also featured singers Olympia Khamo, Vivian El Sudania, and Ghada Daher-Elmowy, as well as community performers and the Melkite Byzantine Choir, which performed traditional hymns in Byzantine chant.
After performing, the singers were asked to reflect on how to raise hope during times of conflict.
“If we have love in our hearts, everything is possible,” said Mrs Daher-Elmowy, an Orthodox Christian and respected soprano who leads the Andalus Arabic choir.
“We have all of you here tonight, together, in love. Praying. Prayers are the most important thing in our faith.”
Mrs Daher-Elmowy’s reflection was interrupted by the sound of fireworks bursting just outside, drawing comparisons to Lebanon and its civil war.
“I remind myself I’m in Australia!” Mrs Daher-Elmowy said.
Dignitaries included Melkite Eparch Bishop Robert Rabbat; Melkite Metropolitan of Beirut Archbishop Georges Bacouni, who was touring Australian with Aid to the Church in Need; Bishop of Parramatta Vincent Long; and the Australian Metropolitan of the Assyrian Church of the East, Meelis Zaia.
The Archdiocese of Sydney was represented by the Episcopal Vicar for the Western Region, Fr Paul Monkerud.
Participants received a video message from the Melkite Patriarch, His Beatitude Youssef Absi, who was originally slated to visit Australia but remained in Lebanon as the Israel-Hamas war broke out.
“Your presence, support, and unity have already made this event a great success,” the patriarch said.
“It is heartwarming to see our community come together to show love and compassion for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East who are facing hardship and suffering.”
“Your contributions and prayers have the power to bring hope and healing to those in need. Your presence here tonight demonstrates our unwavering commitment to the values of love and solidarity.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for your dedication and the way you’ve come together behind this important cause, especially in my absence.”