Killings, shootings and massacres motivated by religion and which horrify the world must not be allowed to destroy the increasing ties of friendship and dialogue between religious groups, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP told representatives of numerous religions last week.
The Pittsburgh synagogue shooting during Shabbat prayers last October, the attacks on two Christchurch mosques during Friday Prayers in March, and the Easter Sunday attacks on three Christian churches and other venues in Sri Lanka had horrified the world, he told about 70 participants at the annual Iftar Dinner hosted by the Archdiocese of Sydney.
The dinner is held in solidarity with Muslims who fast from sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan.
The recent event was the 10th such dinner to be held by the archdiocese.
Hosted by the archbishop, it included representatives of the Islamic faith such as the Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, and representatives from Jewish, Bahai, Buddhist and Christian faiths.
While such events evoked universal horror, religious groups in Australia had reacted “not vindictively but with messages of sympathy and ceremonies of remembrance,” the archbishop said.
“We retaliated, but with prayer rather than weapons. We demonstrated, but by gathering in friendship rather than rioting.
There were interfaith gatherings in Sydney to commemorate those who had suffered, and to renew our commitment to each other and to peace.
“We did that because it’s good, because it’s prudent, but above all because that’s what friends do. We weren’t playing the blame game, or the spin game, but instead continuing to walk with each other as we have done for many years now, offering comfort and support,” Archbishop Fisher said.
Meanwhile, another noteworthy event on the religious friendship front had been Pope Francis’s visit to Morocco in March, the Archbishop told dinner guests.
Asked by a journalist what the fruits of his visit to the overwhelmingly Muslim country were, the Pope had replied that fruits usually appear only after a longer period of time; it was instead better to focus on good things already happening, the Archbishop recalled.
Finally, the recent federal election had shown that a substantial number of Australians were prepared to vote on religious issues, demonstrating that the subject has political importance; political parties need to recover their relationship with religious voters, he said.
Archbishop Fisher urged those attending to join him in building interfaith relations by demonstrating “the good-will, neighbourliness, friendship and common purpose that withstands even threats and attacks.”