Religions for Peace NSW Branch meet monthly at Parliament House, Sydney. The theme of the meetings for 2017 is ‘structure’ and the meetings focus on structure in a specific religion. The March Meeting focussed on the structure in Shia Islam.
Josie Lacey OAM, Convenor of NSW Religions for Peace writes:
I feel very honoured to be the convenor of this amazing group and thank our host The Hon Walt Secord.
Our excellent speaker today was Zohra Aly on the structure of Shia Islam, and we also welcomed two visiting Ethiopian Jews , siblings.
We also endorsed a draft submission by Ian Lacey on why we should retain article 18C of the Racial discrimination act. (Submission below meeting photos)
Religions for Peace (NSW) is deeply concerned at reported proposals to diminish the protection against racial harassment and vilification afforded by Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.
Religions for Peace (NSW) is a member of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, which is a Non-Government Organisation with branches in 72 countries and headquarters at the United Nations. The NSW executive includes members of seven major religions, and we meet regularly at Parliament House in Sydney.
Our aims include the promotion and advocacy of interfaith harmony and understanding, respect between the adherents of the various religions in Australia, and action to combat religious prejudice and discrimination. We see the preservation of harmony in Australia’s culturally diverse society as central to these objectives.
Our view is that any reduction in the protection afforded by the law for our various communities would send a message that the Australian government is losing the will to provide legislative remedies which contribute to the preservation of our uniquely harmonious and culturally diverse society.
While we recognise the vital importance of the promotion and protection of freedom of speech, we would submit that Section 18C as it presently stands does not limit the civilised exchange of ideas, and that it only addresses offensive behaviour. If speech or writing does not offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate, then it is clearly not limited by the present law.
It is also our view that the very idea that the victims of racial abuse ought to defend themselves by rational argument betrays a deep misunderstanding of the sadistic mechanism of racism and its corrosive social impact. The victims of abuse should never find it necessary to engage in demeaning protest and argumentation, and they certainly would not wish to promote racist defamations by public debate.
The members of our communities have a right to live their lives in freedom from insult, humiliation and intimidation on the ground of their ethnic identity, and we look to the Australian Parliament to continue to assist in maintaining that right.
Josie Lacey, OAM
Religions for Peace (NSW)