Interfaith in Action at Religions for Peace

By : Surinder Jain.

What is RfP

Religions for Peace (RfP) is an organization representing religious leaders of different faiths in Australia and includes Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Bahai faith. Hindu Council of Australia has been a member, represented by its director Vijai Singhal for over a decade now.

According to RfP founder, this Interfaith forum is different from others. Apart from meetings and speeches, it tries to connect individual faith leaders together in a bond of friendship which is best manifested by leaders of different faiths become personal friends. She cited as an example of a christian member whose daughter’s wedding was attended by and blessed by Muslims, Jews and from other faiths.

RfP held a meeting on 19th November 2018 to discuss various issues.

Anti-Hate laws in NSW

High on its agenda was an anti-hate and anti-discrimination law being considered by the state of NSW. Phillip Ruddock, former Attorney General of Australia and now Mayor of Hornsby shire has held wide consultations with community and submitted a report. Ian Lacey, a lawyer explained to members that Australian constitution in 1901 has included a clause on freedom of religions which means that :

  1. Government can not establish a religion
  2. Government can not enforce a religion
  3. Government can not stop a religion and
  4. Government can not ask for a religious qualifications for a job

This, he explained, provides freedom of religion to all Australians.

Various states like Victoria and Queensland have enacted Vilification or anti-hate laws which are not working very well. He feared that NSW should not follow their path and instead enact a robust law like that in Britain which

  1. Allows people to criticize a religion but
  2. Does not allow adherents of a religion to be discriminated

He further explained that stopping people from criticizing religions can have the opposite effect of becoming a blasphemy law.  We all know how some fundamentalists regimes have enacted blasphemy laws and have used them to prosecute and impose a certain religion.

Jatayu earth centre

Robert from Vedanta society explained his recent visit to India and a “Jatayu earth centre” being established there.

Parliament of World’s Religions

Father Patrick and Rachelle Kahn who recently returned from Parliament of World’s Religions held in Toronto briefed about their impressions of the visit.  The first Parliament was held in 1893 where Swami Vivekanand had given his first now world famous address starting with “Brothers and Sisters” instead of the usual “Ladies and Gentlemen” salutation of the time.

Parliament of World’s Religions 1893 – courtesy Wikipedia

The next Parliament was held a 100 years later in 1993 and is now an annual affair. The representation was very wide spread with 7,500 people, from 80 countries, 222 religions and over 500 workshops. However, the depth of religious fervor was very shallow.

Eat Less Meat

Mr Vijai Singhal explained to everyone about Eat Less Meat project in which Hindu Council has joined with ARRCC (Australian Religious Response to Climate Change).

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Religious Community Forum condemns attacks

By : Surinder Jain.

Religious community from Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christainity and Zorashtrian religions met with representatives from Department of Multicultural NSW on 8th November 2018 to discuss issues affecting their religious communities in Australia. The forum condemned recent attacks (1) Desecration of Bharathiye Mandir Hindu temple (2) Pittsburgh (Jewish) Synagogue massacre in America and (3) St Samuel (Coptic) Monastry in Egypt. A one minute silence was observed to pay respect to those who died in the attacks.

The forum felt that instead of reacting to such incidents, we should take pro-active steps to avoid such incidents in future and discussed following recommendations :

  1. Children should be taught value of respecting sacred places and religious leaders.
  2. Religious schools teaching a particular religion should also teach respect for all other religions.
  3. School curriculum teaches students their rights but should also include lessons on students duties.
  4. Australia already has diversity, emphasis should now be on inclusion.
  5. Australia has a good model of a chesive multicultural society and it should be a model for other countries.

It was also agreed that there should be an emphasis of imparting religious sermons in English language but religious rituals should continue in their traditional languages.

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Hindu Council Donates to Farmers Relief Fund

Hindu Council gave a cheque for $11,000 to the Premier’s Farmers Relief Fund. 

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Non-Alcoholic and Vegetarian Diwali celebrated by NSW Unions

By : Surinder Jain.

Unions NSW held a Diwali celebration “Unions in Unison in Divine Diwali” in the Trades Hall at Trade Union office on 26th October 2018. The event was hosted by the secretary of NSW Unions and presented by Harish Velji and Aesha of the labour Union movement.

Diwali celebration in Trades Hall

According to Mr Harish Velji,

“Unions in Unison in Divine Diwali was a historical first by the unions at their historic site. As organisers we felt the only way we should respect the event (Diwali being a religious event) was by not having meat or alcohol.

There are some commercial Diwali function who supply both. My team has people of various faith. Great thing is that all recognise that we must value each others religion as equal and should be treated as such.

Aisha, Michelle and I look forward to attending Hindu Council Diwali Mela.”

Thank you for inviting Hindu Council to the event and sticking to the spiritual festival and abiding by Hindu sensitivities on the matter, without us having to even ask.

Harish Velji talking about Diwali

 

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APRO all religions leaders condemn Temple attack

APRO Australian Participation of Religious Organizations condemned the recent attack on a Hindu temple in Reagents Park. APRO aims to  promote and advocate for inter-faith harmony, and understanding and respect between the adherents of the various religions in Australia and to combat religious prejudice and discrimination. It has members from Council fo Australian Jewery, Bahai, Buddhist, Hindu (represented by Hindu Council of Australia), National Council of Churches, Muslims and Sikh faith.

Hindu Council of Australia has been an active member for last ten years.

All the leaders condemned the attack in strong terms and issued following Press Release :

“We,  leaders and representatives of faith-based organisations in Australia, condemn the shameful attack on the Hindu Temple in Regents Park on 14 October 2018. 
 
Attacks on religious institions are intolerable and shameful.
 
Australia enjoys and celebrates religious diversity and is rightly recognised as a leading example of fairness, tolerance and inter-communal harmony and cooperation and it is incumbent upon us to do our best to ensure that incidents such as this are exposed for what they are and the perpetrators punished. 
 
We call upon the police to make every effort to speddily identify the culprit/s and for the courts to deal with any guilty party promptly and appropriately.
 
We further call on our political leaders to publicly and unambiguously condemn the attack”
 
  • National Council of Churches in Australia
  • Muslims Australia (Australian Federation of Islamic Councils)
  • Executive Council of Australian Jewry
  • Australian Baha’i Community
  • Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils
  • Hindu Council of Australia
  • National Sikh Council of Australia

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Haifa Day Centenary Celebrated in Sydney Australia

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, an organization representing Jews in the New South wales state celebrated the centenary of the day the city of Haifa in Israel was liberated a hundred years ago. Over 100 members of the #Jewish and #Indian communities commemorated this 100th anniversary of the liberation of #Haifa during #WWI at Parramatta & District Synagogue. in North Parramatta on the evening of 21st October 2018.

Left:Linda Ben-Mashe, middle:Tara Sharma, Right:Mala Mehta and Shobha Deshiken

Lynda Ben-Mashe thanked Hindu Council of Australia for prompted the Jewish community of Sydney about the importance of Haifa Day and helping start the celebrations. Hindu Council was represented by its Directors Tara Sharma, Vijai Singhal and Surinder Jain.

Peter Allen-President NSW JBD, Surinder Jain-VP Hindu Council, Vijai Singhal-Director Hindu Council

Peter Allen, President of NSW Jewish Board of Deputies welcomed everyone. A historical record of Haifa day liberation and the valiant role of Indian troops was narrated by a historian. A Kathak dance by Niharika Sanghi and Pvitra Hathi enchanted everyone.

This was followed by reminiscences of childhood in Banglore by Renne who was born in banglore. Her mother still lives there while Renee has moved to Israel.

The final Indian bollywood style dance song by Loira Itzhak in Hebrew was enjoyed by everyone making the audience as well host dancing on the floor.

 

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ACU Interfaith Breakfast highlights

Australian Catholic University had organized an Interfaith Breakfast meeting at the NSW Parliament House on 17th October 2018. The meeting was well attended by over 200 invitees including Premier of NSW, Minister for Multiculturalism, ex-premium Hon John Faye AC (and now a chancellor of ACU) and about 35 other MPs. Almost all religions of Australia including Hindus and Sikhs were represented there.

The Premier of NSW Honourable Gladys Berejiklian addressed the gathering recollecting her Armenian background. She applauded that such a diversity of religions and cultures was present there to have a dialogue among themselves and to have a dialogue with elected representatives. She was proud to see the diversity which is not seen in other places in the world.  Its good for framing public policies that initiative for change is coming from the faith leaders. As Australia is increasingly becoming secular, discussions with faith leaders on important issues will result in better policies.

Hon John Faye AC expressed his happiness at the growing number of religions in Australia. He said that separation of State and Church does not mean that religious persuasions should be ignored and that they have an important role to play in getting better outcomes from their Governments. He noted the success of Australia’s multiculturalism that religious diversity has not lead to fights but has rather enriched the Australian culture.

Mr Luke Foley, Leader of Opposition said that the separation of state and church means that state should not impose “a” religion but it also does not mean that religion should have no say in shaping state policy. He lamented that some core values are under attack due to excessive individualism, self-centredness, capitalism and materialism. Our society and families are changing as more children are being raised without the presence of a father figure in the family and we are getting drenched in excessive celebrity culture.  He said that people often get criticized for bring their faith to the parliament but religion is what gives us our values and it would be naive and irresponsible to drive religion out of the public square.

Ms Janice Petersen an SBS Journalist said that there are sixty eight million refugees in the world and it is the religion that offers that solace, social acceptance and hope. Census shows that people in Australia are drifting away from religion and it is good to see that many religious leaders are becoming pro-active. She advised religious leaders that in order to get coverage on SBS, they should scrutinize current issues (like Gay teachers rights, refugee issues etc), formulate a policy response to them and have a spokesperson ready to speak on them.

The Interfaith meeting received 20 prayers/readings from different religions that include :

  • Ahmadiyya Muslim
  • Anglican
  • Baha’i
  • Buddhism
  • Latter-Day Saints
  • Congregational
  • Druze
  • Engaged Buddhism
  • Hinduism
  • Islam
  • Judaism
  • Lutheran
  • Quakers
  • Roman Catholic
  • Russian Orthodox
  • Seventh-Day Adventist
  • Sikh
  • Sukyo Mahikari
  • Unitarian
  • Uniting Church

Towards the end, five religious prayers were read by their representatives. Hinduism prayer verse 10,191:2,3,4 from Rig Veda were read by Pandit Ramachandra Athreiya Rama.

Hindus were represented by Pandit Ramachandra and Pandit Rami from Australian Hindu Clergy as well as Surinder Jain and Dr Nihal Agar from Hindu Council of Australia.

 

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Hindu rituals under attack in Australia

By: Smith Jones.

Australia is a very tolerant society. Hindu practices are not only encouraged but participated by a large number of white Australians and elected Australian representatives from all shades of political spectrum. Hindus feel at ease and encouraged to become Australians.

Surprisingly, attacks on Hindus are not coming from other religions or from fringe political ideologies. Political leadership in Australia makes sure they come to Hindu events and celebrate it with Hindu Australians. All other religions including the main religion Christianity are very supportive of Hindus and their efforts to organize themselves and celebrate their festivities and conduct their rituals. In fact, some of the religious leaders of older religions who have been here for two hundred years, go out of their way to help new comers find their feet and guide them on how to integrate well into Australian society. The departments of multiculturalism and various other government ministries are inclusive, respectful and supportive of Hindus and their efforts to get spiritual guidance from their temples, associations, seers and saints.

The attack to dissuade Hindus from practicing their rituals is coming from other Communist leaning pseudo-secularists masquerading as journalists who have also migrated to Australia more recently. They seem to question the audacity of Hindus in performing their rituals and Hindu worship in their new homeland of Australia. All Hindus and all religious leaders of all religions in Australia as well as Political leadership should condemn such veiled and sometimes open attacks on Hindus by vested interests.

By:Smith Jones.

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Farmers helped during Walkathon to Temples

Hindu Council of Australia organized a Walk to Temples event in Sydney on 29th September 2018. Funds were raised for Farmers Drought Relief efforts during the walk. According to Walk organizer Mr Sai Pravastu, $850 were raised on the first day and $540 were raised on second and final day of the walk. More funds are being collected and will be handed over to Hindu Benevolent Fund to help the Australian Farmers.

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Hindu peace philosophy explained at Ahamadiya Peace Conference

By:Tara Sharma.

I attended Ahmadiyya Muslim community a Peace Symposium on behalf of Hindu Council of Australia. We were also represented a few weeks back, on their function on Eid festival.

It was a good experience.

There were people from other faiths too like Budhists, Sikhs, Christians from two faiths. There were political leaders too and some social / community leaders.

The topic of Symposium was : Decency, Tolerance and Respect for lasting peace.

There were 13 speakers.
I was one of the speakers and I spoke on Hindu philosophy/ teachings / thinking on Peace. It was well received.

There were around 400-500 attendees.

I was much impressed with the organisation.
The program was well organised, professional, well attended. The venue was well laid out, technologically well done, timing was on spot, guests were well received. Dinner was well serviced.
Plenty of volunteers, well managed volunteer force, clock precision work, no chaos, very humble behaviour.

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