Religious values and the value of religion
“Religious values and the value of religion” was the theme of a national interfaith forum attended by more than 80 leading Australian representatives of major world faiths at an Australian Partnership of Religious Organisations event at NSW Parliament House.
Co Convened by Interfaith activist and Life member of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s Josie Lacey and Dr.Natalie Mobini ( Baha’i), the forum provided a space for Christians from various denominations, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Bahá’ís and others to come together to explore the value of religion and the place of religious values in our diverse society. Representatives from government, academia and the media also attended.
The forum began with a keynote address by Professor Kristina Keneally, the first woman to become Premier of NSW. Reflecting on her personal journey as an “openly Catholic” feminist woman, she explored the complex linkages between religion, faith, values and politics in a secular society. She said it was wrong to say that religion has no role to play in political discourse, as we are all influenced by the experiences, beliefs and worldview that we bring to public life; we are all spiritual beings. The more important question to ask, she said, is how well our politicians understand the faith of their fellow citizens, and how it shapes and motivates them.
NSW Minister for Multiculturalism, Ray Williams, and NSW Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism, Ms Sophie Cotsis, both spoke to the forum, expressing their appreciation for APRO and its important work of bringing faith communities together. The federal Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs, Senator the Hon Zed Seselja, addressed a message to the forum in which he stated “APRO plays a vital role in fostering community harmony through interfaith dialogues such as this national forum. I believe in the power of people of all faiths in join in conversation, and help build an even more united Australia”.
A panel discussion moderated by the Rev Dr David Gill, former General Secretary of the Uniting Church in Australia and the National Council of Churches in Australia, brought leading members of the various faith communities into a conversation which explored what are religious values, whether there are values shared across the faith traditions, what value religion can add to our public discourse, and how faith communities can work together to demonstrate and strengthen the value of religion in Australian society. The members of the panel were Buddhist nun Ven. Wu Chin, Muslim Shaykh Haisam Farache, Hindu nun Rev Pravrajika Gayatripana, Sikh Council Secretary Mr Bawa Singh Jagdev, Jewish Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio, Uniting Church Moderator Rev Myung Hwa Park, and Baha’i discourse officer Ms Ida Walker. This was followed by roundtable discussions, where the participants were invited to identify key issues facing contemporary Australia that have a real bearing on the spiritual and material progress of our society.