Victoria: Safety and Sanctity of Places of Worship

Interfaith leaders at Port Melbourne

Leaders of a Port Melbourne church and a temple that was defaced in a series of attacks against Hindu places of worship, have shared ideas about religious freedom and safety during a joint sermon.

Holy Trinity locum Bishop Philip Huggins and the Australasian International Society for Krishna Consciousness interfaith director Rev. Bhakta Dasa preached the importance of worshipper safety during a service at Holy Trinity last Sunday.

Bishop Huggins said he invited Rev. Dasa and other leaders from the ISKCON Hare Krishna temple and wider community to the service after the temple was vandalised during a spate of attacks in late January.

He said world events in the last fortnight, in which people were killed in a mosque in Pakistan, a synagogue in Jerusalem, and in two churches in Myanmar, were a reminder of how important it was to protect the freedoms we have in Australia.


Holy Trinity’s blackboard
Holy Trinity’s blackboard promotes safety in places of worship. Picture: supplied.

Bishop Huggins said because feeling safe was critical to how people perceived a place of worship, ensuring that they could offer that feeling to worshippers was common ground for all faith leaders.

He said that was why he and Rev. Dasa also canvassed ideas about what could be done to enhance those feelings of security.

That included the possibility of having visual reminders such as community billboards that helped make people more aware and appreciative of the tradition of safety that they could find locally.

“People gather so many associations over the years about places of worship, which they regard as places of solace, comfort and as spiritual homes, particularly if they’ve had a long family connection with it. So, to feel safe and be safe there means an enormous amount to them,” Bishop Huggins said.

Anti-Hindu graffiti was sprayed across the front of the Hare Krishna temple in one of three attacks against Hindu temples in Melbourne in January.

The Indian High Commission in Canberra denounced the vandalism and described it as an attempt to stir up divisions in the Indian-Australian community.

Bishop Huggins said members of the temple were not in need of a new place to worship because of the incident, but that he had been in a situation in Geelong in the past where he offered the use of church space as a worship venue to the local Muslim community when their mosque was burnt.

Because it was important to reach out to other people of faith when they faced difficulties, it was possible Holy Trinity would offer a helping hand to the members of the Hindu temple if it was needed, he said.

Bishop Huggins said he and Rev. Dasa had plans to get involved with other harmonising initiatives and would be meeting with the City of Port Phillip mayor Heather Cunsolo to discuss them on Friday.


Interfaith leaders at Port Melbourne
Bishop Huggins, Bhakta Dasa and other community leaders at Holy Trinity. Picture: supplied.

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