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Archbishop Fisher Hosts Annual Iftar Dinner

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
1 Jun 2017

The Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP welcomed more than 50 guests representing a number of different faith traditions, as well as civic leaders, to Mary Mackillop Place on Monday evening for the Archdiocese of Sydney's annual Iftar dinner.

Iftar is the evening meal when Muslims break their fast on each evening during Ramadan, and is often a time when observant Muslims gather with friends, family and community to break their fast together.

The dinner was opened with a welcome to country delivered by Mrs Elsie Heiss, a Wiradjuri Elder who Archbishop Fisher described as a dear friend. Sister Giovanni Farquer RSJ, Executive Director of the Archdiocese of Sydney's Commission for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, and the organiser of the annual Iftar dinner offered the grace before meals.

Also present at the meal were Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, Grand Mufti of Australia, Shiite leader Sheikh Kamal Moselmane and other Islamic leaders, Dr Benjamin Elton, Chief Rabbi of the Great Synagogue of Sydney and other Jewish leaders, Rev. Prav-rajika Gaya-trip-rana, President of the RSV Hindu Society, Rev. Shigen-obu Wat-anabe, Minister of the Hong-wanji Buddhist Mission of Australia, clergy and religious leaders from various Catholic rites and other Christian churches, as well as the Hon. Ray Williams MP, Minister for Multiculturalism and Minister for Disability Services.

After welcoming those in attendance, Archbishop Fisher quoted Pope Francis' "marks of true dialogue" which the Holy Father spoke about during his recent travels to Egypt: first, respect for one's own identity and that of others; second, the courage to accept differences; and third, sincerity of intentions.

"In our world today such conversation can sometimes be very difficult," Archbishop Fisher said. "It can be so much easier to focus on the differences and complain about them, as if somehow the world would be problem-free if only everyone thought the same as me about everything." He challenged this idea, saying that real courage admits differences and has the strength to work together despite them.

Archbishop Fisher spoke of the urgent need for true dialogue and peace: "Today, more than ever, we need that genuine dialogue if we are to know friendship and peace," he said. "The endless series of horrors in the Middle East, such as the bus load of Coptic Christians slaughtered this week past apparently in reprisal for the Pope having been invited to speak in Egypt, the continuing violence and persecution of minorities, the poor and the powerless, all cry out to heaven for healing of division, building of friendships, and making of peace."

The Archbishop noted that while Australia is a "remarkably cohesive society" in which we do not live with the constant fear of violence as in some other countries, there were two challenges faced here which were not so prevalent in other communities.

"First, we often face a kind of relativism regarding faith and morals or indifference to traditional religion and ethics," he said. "Only this past month we faced off an attempt to legalise abortion even of full-term babies and for any reason at all and to require all health professionals to co-operate in it; and Australia's greatest female tennis player, who is also a Christian pastor, has been vilified for choosing not to fly with an airline that is campaigning for same-sex marriage."

"Secondly, we are challenged by a kind of anti-religious 'religion', a dogmatism that would exclude faith from culture, society and polity, that belittles those who believe, and insidiously infects even believers with certain secularist assumptions, such as the primacy of individual preferences over God and our God-given nature, over duty, loyalty, honour, integrity, truth."

Following the Archbishop's remarks, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, Grand Mufti of Australia, spoke in reply.

The Archbishop's full remarks can be read here.