THE Muslim population in Ballarat has grown to such numbers that a mosque is now required, to service their religious needs. Religions for Peace Australia fully supports the construction of a mosque in Ballarat.
Religious bigotry and exclusionist attitudes belong in the past, the Ballarat Interfaith Network says in response to the announcement by Restore Australia that it plans to letterbox people in Ballarat in an attempt to whip up opposition to the building of a mosque in Ballarat.
Ballarat Interfaith Network believes dialogue and conversation to be more effective in establishing social and religious harmony rather than publishing prejudiced statements designed to incite further prejudice.
They see greater benefit in building bridges of understanding, rather than in driving wedges of distrust between people of different faiths.
Ballarat Interfaith Network wants the Ballarat community to feel free to express its spiritual diversity in peace, harmony and understanding, and therefore endorses the building of Ballarat’s first mosque in a community blessed with many churches.
Religions for Peace Australia supports the construction of Mosques in regional Australia. The Chair of Religions for Peace, Prof. Des Cahill of RMIT University, said recently that there are many challenges to be met in rural interfaith and intercutlural relations in Australia. In his talk to members of the Ballarat Interfaith Network and the Loddon Campaspie Multifaith and Multicultural Network, Prof. Cahill said, inter-alia:
The Challenges for Interfaith Networks in Regional Victoria
The first challenge is to welcome, and to continue welcoming the stranger into our midst. This is the tradition of hospitality of all the major religious traditions. It is also the tradition of the bush. Hospitality is making space for the other, the stranger, the immigrant, the refugee; it is offering them the space to be themselves and creating space where change can take place.
The second challenge is to build and continue to build the social wealth of the local community to ensure social cohesion nationally and locally. The social cohesion and religious extremism debate has focussed in the last 6 – 7 years very much on homegrown terrorism but the issue is much broader than this. There is no agreed definition of social cohesion but generally descriptions revolve around a shared vision held by a well-functioning core group or community that acts in a continuous and interminable process of achieving social harmony. The research evidence suggests there are five key elements:
- creating a sense of belonging to a multifaith nation and to a multifaith community, proud of itself and incorporating shared values, trust and a sense of psychological identification. A local community’s first task at all levels is to create continuously a sense of belonging, including to the local area as well as to the nation.
- ensuring social justice and equity in accord with human rights observance and in terms of access to government services and funding. This second element is to ensure, firstly, that all citizens and residents, both permanent and temporary, are treated justly, with equity and equitably, including that the youth and the adult young receive their fair share of the local resources and are provided with multiple opportunities to develop themselves and their talents through training and education. Almost all suicide bombers have been young adults.
- encouraging democratic participation with regard to political and cooperative involvement. This third task is to ensure participation by all groups in civic and social life as part of creating this sense of belonging. Elected civic and administrative leaders as well as members of parliament need to attend the many varied ethnic and religious community functions as part of creating the sense of welcoming and participation that lie at the heart of social cohesion.
- bringing about acceptance of ethnic, indigenous, religious and sexual minorities and working against racism, discrimination and extremist ideologies based on literalist interpretations of sacred religious texts or ethnonationalist ideologies. Welcoming includes resisting racism, bigotry and discrimination through formal media and community education programs.
- forging a sense of worth for all incorporating people’s general happiness, life satisfaction and future expectations. People must all have a sense of their personal worth as individuals, generally happy in their personhood, generally satisfied with their lives and living and working with achievable and realistic expectations.
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