ACU to Host Federal Parliament's First Interfaith Prayer Breakfast

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
11 Jun 2015

Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove delivered the keynote at ACU's inaugural Interfaith Prayer Breakfast at State Parliament last year

Diversity and tolerance will be celebrated next week when politicians from both minor and major political parties join community leaders from 30 different faiths at Federal Parliament for the Australian Catholic University's Inaugural Interfaith Prayer Breakfast.

"The Interfaith Prayer Breakfast provides an opportunity to reflect on the important role faith plays in our everyday lives and in making sense of our world," says ACU Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Craven who hopes the breakfast will become a regular event on the Federal Parliamentary, interfaith and University calendars.

Faiths represented at next week's breakfast will include leaders from Australia's Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Baha'i communities. Leaders from Christian churches will also be present. Roman Catholic, Baptist, the Salvation Army, the Uniting Church, Coptic Orthodox, the Wesley Mission and other Christian denominations will also be represented.

Vice Chancellor of ACU, Professor Greg Craven

Seven different faith leaders will not only help lead prayers but also deliver readings on leadership, governance and service, and pray for the wise deliberations of Federal Parliament.

Professor Greg Craven believes the opportunity for leaders from across the political and religious spectrum to share a meal together will be an invaluable experience and will signal a unity of spirit that exists across political and faith boundaries.

"The Catholic intellectual tradition promotes the engagement with and the understanding of people of different faiths," he says.

The Interfaith Prayer Breakfast will take place at Old Parliament House on Wednesday, 17 June. The date and year chosen for the inaugural event have particular significance. Not only does the day of the Interfaith Prayer Breakfast occur midway through World Refugee Week,  but 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Vatican II's ground-breaking Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions. Known as "Nostra Aetate," the Declaration was promulgated by Pope Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council on 28 October 1965.

"ACU's Mission is to foster an appreciation of the sacred in life and a commitment to serving the common good. Core to this tradition is the recognition of the dignity of the human person," Professor Craven says of the ACU initiative.

Venerable Dr Juewei Head Priest, Nan Tien Temple, among faith leaders at ACU's Interfaith Prayer Breakfast at State Parliament last year

While next week's interfaith prayer breakfast is a first for Federal Parliament, the event follows the interfaith prayer breakfast hosted by ACU at Parliament House in Sydney for NSW politicians and leaders from the city's many different faith communities in March last year.

The event featured prayers led by leaders from a diversity of faiths, and was followed by an inspiring address by the former Chancellor of ACU and now Governor General of Australia, His Excellency Sir Peter Cosgrove.

The Governor General spoke about the vital importance of faith in the military which he divided into three distinct tiers. The first was having faith in yourself and your mates to fight alongside you. The second was faith in those who lead, and the third was faith in God or your Creator.

A soldier was naturally close to God at times of armed conflict when he finds himself buried in a fox hole contemplating his own mortality, the former soldier and Chief of the Australian Armed Forces said. He pointed out that in military circles it is well known that there are no atheists in foxholes.

Dr Stepan Kerkyasharian AO, President of the NSW Anti Deiscrimination Board

At Federal Parliament's Inaugural Interfaith Breakfast the keynote address will be delivered by Dr Stepan Kerkyasharian AO, President of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board and for 25 years the Chair and CEO of the Community Relations Commission for a Multi-Cultural NSW.

Under his leadership, the Commission took a proactive role to ensure racism has no place in today's multi-cultural society. He also established interfaith dialogue amongst various religious organisations across NSW.

His address to Canberra's politicians and community faith leaders next Wednesday will explore "Faith and Leadership in Modern Australia."