Australia: World Interfaith Harmony Week Launch

Harmony DVDWorld Interfaith Harmony Week was launched in Melbourne at Parliament House, on Friday, 1 February 2013.

World Interfaith Harmony Week seeks to spread the message of harmony and
tolerance among the followers of all the world?s religions, faiths and beliefs.
It seeks to do this by promoting their common basis of “Love of God
and Love of the Neighbor, or Love of the Good and Love of the
Neighbor
“. Its message includes everyone, excludes no one, and is
purely voluntary.

The Interfaith Centre of Melbourne hosted a Morning Tea on Friday February 1st in Queens Hall, Parliament House Melbourne for religious, spiritual and community leaders to celebrate the 2013 World Interfaith Harmony Week.

About World Interfaith Harmony Week

The World Interfaith Harmony Week was first proposed by HM KIng Abdullah I I of Jordan before the United Nations General Assembly on September 23rd 2010.

On October 20, 2010, the Resolution was unanimously adopted by the UN and the first week of February was proclaimed as the World Interfaith Harmony Week between all religions, faiths and beliefs.

The Resolution also “encourages all States to support, on a voluntary basis, the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship during that week, based on love of God and love of one’s neighbour or on love of the good and love of one’s neighbour, each according to their own religious traditions or convictions.”

World Interfaith Harmony Week Launch

World Interfaith Harmony Week Launch

The sponsoring partners this year were the Faith Communities Council of Victoria, the Islamic Council of Victoria, Religions for Peace Australia, the Shepparton Interfaith Network and the Australian Multicultural Foundation. Invited speakers were Mr Andrew Elsbury MLC, representing the Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship, Bishop John Bayton AM, Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, and Venerable Chi Kwang Sunim, Abbess of The Seon (Zen) Centre, Kinglake, Victoria.

Guests at the World Interfaith Harmony Week Launch

from L to R, Rev. Helen Summers (Interfaith Centre of Melbourne), Mr Andrew Elsbury MLC (representing the Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Citizenship), Nur Shkembi (Islamic Centre of Victoria), Bishop John Bayton (Anglican Diocese of Melbourne) and Venerable Chi Kwang Sunim, Abbess of The Seon (Zen) Centre

Principal Guest Speakers were Bishop John Bayton, who spoke on the dimensions of the sacred. Venerable Chi Kwang Sunim, Abbess of The Seon (Zen) Centre in Kinglake, Victoria, spoke about Love of the Good, Love of Neighbour in light of the experience of disaster in Australia.

Dimensions of the Sacred:

In addressing what it is we all have in common, Bishop John Bayton told the assembly that religions shared in common the shape of Sacred Space and Sacred Liturgy which renders a Remembrance of origins. In speaking of Sacred Scripture, Bishop Bayon told, “As I understand the nature of sacred scripture I am led to believe that sacred texts are not an end in themselves. If they are to be of any integrity today they need to be read at four levels of comprehension – literally, morally, allegorically, spiritually. Read only at the literal level they may lead to fundamentalism. Read only morally they have the potential for conflict with the Law of the land.”

Bishop John Bayton addresses the World Interfaith Harmony Week Launch

Bishop John Bayton addresses the World Interfaith Harmony Week Launch

Bishop John Bayton went on to say “My understanding of Scripture is that it evolves.” He also gave further reflections on Sacred Art and Sacred Environment. In further illuminating what it is we have in common, Bishop Bayton said, inter alia,

Today we have gathered in the context of interfaith dialogue. I have presented some of the points of common interest that we hold. However we not only celebrate the things we hold in common, we are here to celebrate our differences.

Above all else what we hold in common is God’s love for us, our love of God and our love of one another. The love of God and the profound expression of it. It is for this reason that the God of the Christians exists in the Unity of Hospitality – One in Three, Three in one. For us it is only in the complexity of plurality the Uniqueness of Oneness can be expressed. We do not worship three gods! Consider what this means in terms of music. When Arnold Schoenberg struggled with his great Opera Moses and Aaron in May 1932 for six months, he finally arrived at the sound of the God of Moses speaking from the burning bush, by employing six singers to proclaim the Voice of God – soprano, tenor, baritone, coloratura, contralto, basso profundo. Only in the complexity of plurality could he express the uniqueness of Oneness! This, as I understand it, as an artist, is true of all disciplines.

You may download Bishop John Bayton’s talk here.

Bushfires, Floods and Love of the Good, Love of the Neighbour

Venerable Chi Kwang Sunim of the Seon (Zen) Centre of Kinglake Victoria raised the questions of Love of the Good and Love of Neighbour in the light of the teachings of Buddhism. Buddhism, Ven. Chi Kwang went on to illuminate the teachings on Love, Self and other:

… to love so completely, with our whole hearts and minds, with all our strength, and the goodness that comes out of this, is to love without discrimination of self and other. And the Buddhist tradition puts a strong emphasis on this non-dual perception between self and the other. Other as self, self as other.

Ven Chi Kwang resides in the area where the Black Saturday bushfires struck in Victoria, several years ago. Having to evacuate from her home and join people in a situation of loss, fear and and anxiety, the Abbess observed about the collapse of self and other in this situation of threat and extremity:

… the greatest suffering that came out of the bushfires — having reflected on this in other discussions — there is an interesting thing that happens with humans that comes out of bushfires. This is that the superficial surface – the superficial face of who we think we are and what it is we hold so precious and dear, can so quickly be dissolved and lost through such disaster. And in the rawness and tenderness, in that vulnerability, I found self and other merged; came very close. People didn’t really notice I had no hair and wore funny clothes and were very willing to embrace another human being with a smile and an openness and a willingness to be there with them, with their pain, their suffering, their anxiety, their fears.

Ven. Chi Kwang Sunim addresses the World Interfaith Harmony Week Launch

Venerable Chi Kwang Sunim addresses the World Interfaith Harmony Week Launch

Ven. Chi Kwang went on to make a number of observations about the mind and the need for practice and discipline, drawing from her 33 years of experience as Buddhist nun in both Korea and Australia. Ven Chi Kwang went on to make some observations about presence, being and the human need to both tell and live in stories:

And those in the bushfires were not alone, those in the floods at this very moment, are not alone – we are there with them and they with us. I found an interesting thing in Kinglake after the fires. People I know don’t come up to visit very often. Families haven’t been since shortly after the bushfires. Somehow they feel uncomfortable. Unable to be with us, to be with the memory, to be with the story, to be with the change. And there are great changes. Extraordinary changes.

During her talk, Ven Chi Kwang went on to illuminate and give examples of

  • The greatest action is not to be lost in self-centred worldly ways.
  • The greatest generosity is that of non-attachment.
  • The greatest patience is humility.
  • The greatest effort is not to be concerned with the results.
  • The greatest meditation is the mind that can just let go.
  • The greatest goodness is the peaceful mind that permeates, connects and brings peace

You may read Venerable Chi Kwang Sunim’s talk here.

Participants at World Interfaith Harmony Week Launch

Participants at World Interfaith Harmony Week Launch

Participants at World Interfaith Harmony Week Launch

L to R: Rev. Helen Summers of the Interfaith Centre of Melbourne; Dr Helen Light AM, of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, Mrs Helen Heath OAM, Secretary of Jewish Christian Muslim Association at the Launch of World Interfaith Harmony Week, Parliament House, Melkbourne


Harmony Video: Celebrating 2013 World Interfaith Harmony Week

Harmony from Interfaith Centre of Melbourne on Vimeo.

The DVD of images exemplifying ‘Harmony” was launched at the Morning Tea at Parliament House, Melbourne on 1 February 2013.

The DVD “Harmony” was launched, illustrating the Confucian concept of “Harmony”, a beautiful and dynamic interaction between different elements within a whole, as explained to the General Assembly by HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, Personal Envoy and Special Advisor to the King of Jordan, on October 20th 2010.

Weaving in images of people, words, places and sacred artworks, the DVD exemplifies the common values that bind us together as community, as well as respecting the differences. The images exemplify Love of God and Love of the Neighbour or Love of the Good, and Love of the Neighbour.

Helen Summers, Director of The Interfaith Centre of Melbourne and Nur Shkembi, Arts Officer for the Islamic Council of Victoria, curated the images of people, places and sacred artworks which illustrate ‘harmony’ as defined in the Confucian concept of beautiful and dynamic interaction between different elements within a whole.

Mark Pederson of Chailight Productions created the DVD weaving the images together to convey the common values that bind us together as a community, as well as respecting the differences.

To celebrate World Interfaith Harmony Week, the DVD will be randomly displayed throughout the Week on the Big Screen at Federation Square and the Atrium from Friday 1st February to Friday 8th February, 2013 along with 15 scheduled screenings spreading the meaning of the World Interfaith Harmony Week to the wider community.

Federation Square is Melbourne’s ‘Meeting Place’ and one of the State of Victoria’s most popular tourist destinations.

All contributed individual works of art in this video, by individual artists, remains the property of the artist, and each artist retains copyright of his or her work.

  • Asher Bilu: Cosmotif Series 1
  • John Bayton: The Love of God is in the Dance of Joy
  • John Bayton: Greater love has no man than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.
  • John Bayton: Love is poured out in Creation
  • John Bayton: My love reaches to the heavens
  • Peter Gould: Ishk
  • Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori: Dibirdibi Country 2011
    (Synthetic polymer paint on linen, 151 x 168 cm
    Image courtesy of the Artist, Mornington Island Art, QLD and Alcaston Gallery, Melbourne)
  • Marianne Baillieu: Prana Portrait III 1998
    Mixed Media on Plywood, 240 x 120 cm, Collection of the Artist
  • Philip George: Paradise Suite
  • Ray Messner Photography, www.raymessner.com
    Flickr Account, Parliament of the World’s Religions Melbourne 2009
  • Ahmad Sabra Photography: www.lahza.com.au
  • Tom Fantl: : Photograph of Marianne Baillieu
    www.tomfantl.com.au

Source: Interfaith Centre of Melbourne

Photo Credits: Interfaith Centre of Melbourne