Bill's Speeches

SPEECH TO THE INTERFAITH PRAYER BREAKFAST

SPEECH TO THE INTERFAITH PRAYER BREAKFAST

 

OLD PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

 

WEDNESDAY, 17 JUNE 2015

 

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Good morning everyone.

 

I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land upon which we meet the custodians of the world’s oldest living spiritual tradition.

 

I pay my respects to their elders both past and present.

 

We are here today in shared celebration of:

 

“the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.

 

This is, as I look around, truly a congregation of all faiths, a meeting of every tradition and text.

 

It’s also a celebration of the unity of modern, multicultural Australia.

 

We may pray in different languages, to different deities – but as Australians we speak with one voice.

 

We observe rituals from all parts of the world, in temples, churches, synagogues and mosques but as Australians we all stand beneath one flag.

 

We worship many faiths – but as Australians we all share a common belief: the belief that everyone is welcome and everyone is equal.

 

It’s a the creed that runs through all our faiths:

 

  • Love for our neighbours


 

  • Loyalty to family


 

  • And help to those in need


 

Like perhaps many of us in public life - like indeed like most Australians – I’m a bit shy about talking about my own faith.

 

It is, though, a large part of who I am - it always will be.

 

Of course, it’s not for me, nor I believe for anyone to co-opt their particular faith in their service of a political point.

 

Instead for me, faith will always be a personal guide - a keeper of my conscience.

 

So this morning I would suggest perhaps there’s a higher duty we owe: as Muslims, Christians, Jews and Buddhists.

 

There’s a duty of respect, of love, of compassion and care for all who share our Southern Cross.

 

A duty to embrace others for who they are, not judge them for who they are not.

 

This has never been more important than in trying times for our nation’s soul.

 

At an American interfaith breakfast in February this year, President Obama warned of the dangers of:

 

“Faith being twisted and distorted”

 

“used as a wedge – and worse, sometimes used as a weapon”.

 

The same lesson holds here for us here in Australia.

 

In a free society, we may choose to define ourselves by our faith.

 

But we must never seek to define - or exclude - others, because of their faith.

 

Let this be the great shared goal that we choose today.

 

An Australia where we stand stronger, because we stand together.

 

An Australia bigger, braver and better than fear, division and suspicion.

 

Let this be the open, generous and optimistic country we pledge ourselves to, today and always.

 

Now and forever.

 

Thank you.

 

ENDS

 

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