World Interfaith Harmony Week – Parliament House, Canberra

The co-convenors of the Parliamentary Friends of Multiculturalism, the Member for Calwell Maria Vamvakinou and the Member for McMillan Russell Broadbent commemorated the United Nations Interfaith Harmony Week with an interfaith dialogue in partnership with the Canberra Interfaith forum and Religions for Peace Australia in Parliament House Canberra, on Wednesday, 11 February 2015.


Member for Calwell Maria Vamvakinou opened the proceedings with an overview of World Interfaith Harmony Week.

Maria Vamvakinou MHR opens proceedings

February 1-7 of each year has been designated World Interfaith Harmony Week by the United Nations.

It was launched in February 2011 to promote harmony among people of different faiths at a time when interreligious conflict is claiming lives and livelihoods all over the world.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week was first proposed at the UN General Assembly on September 23, 2010 by H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Just under a month later, on October 20, 2010, it was unanimously adopted by the UN and henceforth the first week of February will be observed as a World Interfaith Harmony Week.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week provides a platform-one week in a year-when all interfaith groups and other groups of goodwill can show the world what a powerful movement they are.

This week will allow for these groups to become aware of each other and strengthen the movement by building ties and avoiding duplicating each other’s efforts.

We are hosting this event in parliament this week to commemorate the annual United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week for 2015 ( even though it after the event) .

After the last couple of months in Australia and elsewhere, from Martin Place to Charlie Hebdo, perhaps it’s time for some sort of pause for thought on the place of religion as an instrument for peace in the world.

At home there’s been one significant interfaith collaboration today, with the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney the Most Reverend Anthony Fisher and the Islamic Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed issuing a joint call to the Government of Indonesia for clemency on behalf of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

That contrasts to events in Middle East, where ISIS has committed the latest in its growing number of horrific public executions, burning alive a captured Jordanian Air force pilot.

Tonight we are joined by a cross section of guest speakers who have in one way or another explored interfaith action and who are all committed to building bridges across what still remain for many, areas of significant division.

This was followed by a reflection/conclusion.

Prime Minister’s Message

The Prime Minister’s Message was then read by the Member for McMillan Russell Broadbent.

Russell Broadbent MHR delivers the Prime Minister’s Message



I am pleased to provide this message for the United Nations Interfaith Harmony Week event at Parliament House.

This is an opportunity to promote understanding, tolerance and respect between people of different faiths and cultures. It is also a time to strengthen the bonds that unite us all.

Australia is a tolerant and pluralist democracy. Events like this encourage people to consider how we can build an even more inclusive and cohesive Australia.

The mutual respect of different religious communities for each other is one of our country’s great strengths.

Our democracy rests on an understanding that every individual counts; and our social solidarity rests on the understanding that we should treat others as we would have them treat us.

Australia has a multicultural character and it is unimaginable without the life, the times, and the passion of people who have come here from all four corners of the earth.

As a nation, we have found unity in our diversity and respect in our differences. Together, we have built a modern nation on the idea that anyone can get ahead provided they are prepared to “have a go”.

I pay tribute to the work of the Parliamentary Friends of Multiculturalism, the Canberra Interfaith Forum and Religions for Peace Australia to make this event a success.

I send my best wishes to everyone taking part in Interfaith Harmony Week.

The Hon Tony Abbott MP
Prime Minister of Australia

Speech and Film by SBS Chair

Nihil Gupta of the SBS gives an address

Guest Speaker at this forum was Mr Nihal Gupta is chairman of SBS. Mr Gupta believes that diversity adds strength, capability and richness to society as a whole. As one of the most successful multicultural countries in the world, Australia can cherish that diversity as a wonderful attribute of our well-functioning democracy.

Mr Nihal Gupta, Chair of SBS gave a speech on the topic, “The role of the Australian media in the management of religious diversity in a multicultural Australia“.

There was then a showing of an SBS Film.

The meeting was then addressed by the partner organisations, Canberra Interfaith Forum and Religions for Peace Australia. Canberra Interfaith Network was represented by Mr Dean Sahu-Khan. Religions for Peace Australia was represented by Prof. Desmond Cahill.

Address by President of Canberra Interfaith Forum

Dean Sahukhan of Canberra Interfaith Forum

Unfortunately or rather regrettably, religion has become or is used as a source of all conflict and animosity towards each other. One can understand the wisdom of King Abdullah II of Jordan when he on On September 23, 2010,in proposing a World Interfaith Harmony Week at the Plenary Session of the 65th United Nations General Assembly in New York said:

It is [also] essential to resist forces of division that spread misunderstanding and mistrust especially among peoples of different religions. The fact is, humanity everywhere is bound together, not only by mutual interests, but by shared commandments to love God and neighbour; to love the good and neighbour.

Religion plays a very crucial and central role in life. Religion guides us to the path of honesty, integrity, and high morals and inspires us to live a righteous life. Many people around the world are guided by their religion to keep themselves away from evil … … … and do good.

At various points in time, many Prophets, Saints and religious leaders have appeared to teach us the true meaning of religion and guided us to live a noble life. Holy books inspire us to keep away from evil and live a life of good deeds.

But a close look at the history of the world demonstrates that many people for their own vested interest have misused religion. Some still do, with tragic results. These people divide society in the name of religion, caste and creed for their own vested interest.

Religious intolerance in society has created many problems- millions of people have been killed; many people are discriminated against every day, if not murdered because of their religion; many nations have been divided on religious lines. There is much discord in the world.

Religious harmony holds the key to a peaceful and progressive world. Religious harmony is the need of the hour because we are the children of the same God. The Holy Books of various religions are filled with Divine knowledge; if we are religiously tolerant and study these holy books and practise their teachings in our daily life then our world can be a lot better.

Let us work together to create religious harmony in our world by knowing and practising our own faith while respecting that of others.

Religious Harmony holds centre stage for peace and prosperity in our multi-faith and multi-cultural world. Let’s pledge to love and respect everyone in the world of good will, irrespective of, and indeed specifically because of one’s religion, caste, creed, sect, colour, ethnicity, language, gender, nationality and any other difference. The basis for Interfaith Harmony stems from humanity which is ‘Love of God and Love of the Neighbour’ or ‘Love of the Good and Love of the Neighbour’.

Let’s pledge to work in the interests of Australia and the world, towards bringing Religious Harmony and creating a peaceful and prosperous world, together.

Dean Sahu-Khan  with members of Canberra Interfaith Forum

Dean Sahu-Khan is the President of the Canberra Interfaith Forum which draws members from at least twelve (12) different faiths or beliefs. He firmly believes in and promotes a friendly relationship amongst members of different faiths. He is on the board of advisors on community issues by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and Multicultural. In 2012 he received the Bluestar International Award (presented by Hon.Phillip Ruddock) for excelling in Interfaith Dialogue. Dean has a deep passion on Interfaith issues.

Dean is also a member of the Commonwealth Celebrations Committee and was appointed as the representative for the religion of Islam at the Commonwealth Multifaith Celebrations on Canberra Day. Dean has sound knowledge of the religion of Islam, having obtained his Masters Degree in Islamic Studies from Charles Sturt University. Dean believes that dialogue is not only the best, but the only way for social cohesion and works tirelessly towards that goal. Dean is a senior prosecutor with the Director of Public Prosecution Office in the ACT.

Interfaith Delegates at Australian Parliament House

Interfaith Delegates at Australian Parliament House

Interfaith Delegates at Australian Parliament House

Fr. Michael Zamer from the St Mark Coptic Orthodox Church with Willie Senanayake of Canberra Interfaith Forum

World Interfaith Harmony Week ~ Love of the Good, Love of the Neighbour