Some 75 visitors attended a Rural Interfaith Forum in Shepparton on Saturday, 22 September 2012. This event was in observance of United Nations World Day of Peace.
Visit by Interfaith Groups
In observance of United Nations World Day of Peace, Ballarat Interfaith Network and Loddon Campaspie Multicultural and Multifaith Network joined Shepparton Interfaith Network for a tour of places of worship, and a forum on the Challenges and Opportunities for Regional and Rural Interfaith Networks.
The activities of the day commenced with a tour of the Turkish mosque in Mooroopna, and an explanation of prayers, rites and rituals in Islam.
The visit commenced with a tour of the mosque
The next event on the program was a talk given by Prof. Des Cahill on the Challenges and Opportunities for Regional and Rural Interfaith Networks. You can read Des Cahill's talk on this website in the Reading Section.
Des Cahill is Professor of Urban and Intercultural Studies at RMIT University, and Chair of Religions for Peace Australia, a nationwide interfaith organisation. In his talk, Des told that to be interfaith is to be interreligious; those who would take up interaction and relations with those of other faiths embrace the keystone value of hospitality and welcoming the stranger into their midst. Once the stranger is known, he is no longer "other", nor any "stranger"; he is known unto us, and known among our circle of religious and spiritual acquaintances.
Councillor Chris Hazelman, Deputy Mayor of Greater Shepparton and Manager, Shepparton and District Ethnic Council, responded to the talk by Des Cahill. In his talk, Cr Hazelman noted that the previous speaker addressed the aftermath of the reactions to the events in Sydney the previous weekend. The events were labelled un-Australian. The history of Australia reveals a pattern of demonstrations in response to issues which strike at the heart of what is held dear by Australian. Protests, in fact, have somewhat shaped our nation. Social media - which from time to time peddles rhetoric and rubbish - and so can be a problematic for some, has a massive power of outreach. The UK football club, Manchester United, has thirty million followers. So each time Man United change their Facebook page, 30 million other Facebook pages are updated.
The rise of non-Christian religions in this region is reflected in the Australian Bureau of Statistics reporting that there are over 80,000 residents in Greater Shepparton of a non-English speaking background. It is safe to assume that the majority are non-Christian. With the aftermath of 9/11, the Shepparton Interfaith Network was one of the prominent groups promoting community understanding. With the activities of the Catholic Parish Priest of the time along with the coverage by the local newspaper, the Shepparton News, we were presented with heretofore unseen images of contact and collaboration among the religions, such as the picture of the local Catholic Priest in the Mosque, speaking with the Imam and local Muslims. This was a very powerful and unifying event.
It is an amazing experience to visit places of worship different to that which we are accustomed to, such as a mosque and a Sikh Gurdwara, as you people are doing today. This highlights the welcoming of the stranger, which Des Cahill referred to earlier. This highlights how Interfaith Networks can be seminal, fostering understanding, fosters relationships, building up friendship, networks and an sense of inclusion, and leading by example. Greater Shepparton is often held up as a model for successful settlement.
When we look at settlement, what does it involve? We have a doctoral student exploring this; what are the components of successful settlement, how does it happen? Looking to the history of Shepparton, and if Shepparton's history tells us anything - on the horizon - there is another new-arrival community on the way. Today's settler will come by choice, being secondary migrants and will come after having settled in other places. They will have heard of Shepparton by word of mouth, and like most other settlers, heard of the seasonal employment. Many will be boat people, some will have been in detention, some will have ongoing health issues, many will be non-Christian, many will not speak English, many will have cultural traditions that will challenge and confront us. They will have a difficult settlement process than some of the communities that came before them.
The challenge of faith groups is to relevant to the dynamic environment. To be vigilant and to the forefront of the debate. I will conclude with a challenge: to be loud and define your leadership role. If you are silent, you will create a vacuum; and in that vacuum, that space will be filled by the voices that we reject.
After lunch, the visitors boarded the bus and travelled to the Sikh Gurduara in Doyles Road. Here, at the Gurdwara, the Community President greeted the visitors and gave a tour of the temple and explained worship and the various prayers and rites followed in a typical Sikh religious gathering.
Sikh Gurdwara, Shepparton
Group Photo prior to departure from Mooroopna Mosque, en-route to the Gurduara
As the day was held in observance of the United Nations International Day of Peace, we bring statements of the UN Secretary General, Ban-ki Moon, and the UN activities:
Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future
"I urge everyone, between now and 21 September, to think about how they can contribute. Let us work together to ensure that the Road from Rio leads us to sustainable development, sustainable peace… and a secure future for all." UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Towards the ideals of peace
Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.
This year, world leaders, together with civil society, local authorities and the private sector, met in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development to renew political commitment to long term sustainable development.
It is in the context of the Rio+20 Conference that “Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future” is the theme chosen for this year's observance of the International day of Peace.
There can be no sustainable future without a sustainable peace. Sustainable peace must be built on sustainable development.
...From Sustainable Development...
The root causes of many conflicts are directly related to or fuelled by valuable natural resources, such as diamonds, gold, oil, timber or water. Addressing the ownership, control and management of natural resources is crucial to maintaining security and restoring the economy in post-conflict countries.
Good natural resource management can play a central role in building sustainable peace in post-conflict societies.
...For a Sustainable Future
The International Day of Peace offers people globally a shared date to think about how, individually, they can contribute to ensuring that natural resources are managed in a sustainable manner, thus reducing potential for disputes, and paving the road to a sustainable future, the "Future We Want".