Remarks at Building Harmony Iftar dinner

President Dr Deidre Palmer gave a response to the keynote address at the sixth annual community Iftar dinner hosted by the Uniting Church and the Affinity Intercultural Foundation at Western Sydney University on Friday 24 May 2019.

Salaam Alaikum. God’s peace and abundant grace be with you.

As I begin this evening, I pay my respects to the Buramattagal Peoples, a clan of the Dharug nation, the sovereign Peoples and traditional custodians of the land on which we meet.

I honour their elders past and present and all descendants of this Nation. I also acknowledge and pay my respects to all Aboriginal people who are present here tonight.

On behalf of the Uniting Church in Australia, I welcome everyone here tonight. I particularly want to acknowledge the presence of Lal Raj Wickrematunga, the Sri Lankan Consul General.

Please be assured of the prayers and support of the Uniting Church for you personally and the people of Sri Lankan, both here in Australia and in Sri Lankan in the wake of recent, horrifc terrorist events.

I want to also acknowledge our keynote speaker, Mr Chin Tan and Dr Derya Iner from the Centre For Islamic Studies And Civilisation at Charles Sturt University.

The Uniting Church in Australia is delighted to co-host this event with our friends at the Affinity Intercultural Foundation and to bring together such a wonderfully diverse group of people in the spirit of friendship and harmony.

We thank Ahmet Polat and the Affinity team for their hard work and commitment to this event and every day in Ramadan in creating the opportunity for Muslims and non-Muslims to share a meal together.

Your work is so important and we commend you.

I thank Mr Chin Tan for his keynote address and his reminder that we all play a part in creating an Australian society that is free from racial discrimination, one that is culturally diverse and open, one which values justice, equality and opportunities for all.

Ahead of the recent Federal election, the Uniting Church re-issued our call for Australia to be a just, compassionate and inclusive nation.

Core to that vision is our belief that the whole world is God’s good creation. Each person is made in God’s image and is deeply loved by God.

In our Vision Statement, we described our hope for a nation where are all people can live life abundantly.

A nation characterised by love for one another, of peace with justice, of healing and reconciliation, of welcome and inclusion.

Chin, you rightly point out that the most important work to combat racism and prejudice begins from the ground up.

I’m delighted to welcome here tonight the Chairs of 12 of the Uniting Church’s National Conferences, who represent different cultural communities within our church spanning the Pacific, Asia and the Middle East.

I see the presence of these culturally diverse communities within the Uniting Church, and their presence here tonight in this important inter-faith gathering, as a great symbol of unity and hope for us as a Church and Australia as a nation.

It is our responsibility, as people of faith to promote conversations across our own diversity with our neighbours of other faiths or of no faith at all.

All Australians should feel safe and be able to express their faith without fear of discrimination.

The Uniting Church is committed to the right of every person to a robust freedom of religion as described in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We believe that these protections should be set within a broad commitment to the upholding of all human rights, preferably in a comprehensive Human Rights Act.

It is also our position that every person is equal before the law and any permission given to religious organisations that allows us to discriminate on the basis of religious belief must be carefully balanced against the rights of people to be free from other forms of discrimination.

Tonight has been a wonderful time to listen to Muslim-Australians share their personal stories, experiences and ideas for our country.

Ramadan reminds us that as Christians and Muslims, as people of different faiths, and people of goodwill, there are core values we all share.

Together we seek peace and reconciliation for our world. We strive our best to be kind to one another, to welcome the stranger and to love one another as ourselves.

As we grieve for Christchurch, Sri Lanka, and other terror attacks, naming these values is more important than ever.

Any attack on people of faith is an attack on us all who seek to worship in safety and peace.

At this crtical time, we stand together to overcome those voices in politics and the media that have allowed hate, fear and racism to dominate.

Together may we work for a world where we embrace our differences and stand strong, united in our shared humanity.

Together, may we continue to embody reconciliation, love and peace.

To all our Muslim brothers and sisters, Ramadan Mubarak.