SPEECH NOTES FOR MINISTER HATZISTERGOS

 

MUSLIMS AND CHRISTIANS – AN OPEN DIALOGUE

 

BENILDUS HALL, CASTLE HILL

 

FRIDAY 30 JULY 2004

 

Bishop Kevin Manning…

Mr. Keysar Trad…

Distinguished Guests…

Ladies and Gentlemen…

 

 

It is far too often that we open the newspaper or turn on our television only to be bombarded by images and stories of violence and bloodshed…

 

… Even more disturbing, however, are the number of occasions these stories are about Islam.

 

It (Media) focuses on troubled regions such as Palestine, Kashmir, and Bosnia

 

… And it has distorted the faith of Islam to such an extent that its true character is a stranger to the Western world.

 

It would be a fair assumption to make that most people roughly know what Christianity is all about…

 

…especially since almost 70% of Australians belong to a stream of Christianity…

 

…but it is few who possess an accurate knowledge of Islam.

 

 

Misconceptions have been exacerbated by a climate of fear, prejudice and intolerance…

 

… and unless we combat these diseased emotions, the ideal of a multicultural Australia will always be jeopardised.

 

It is not everyone who is aware that the word Islam means “self-surrender” in Arabic and is derived from Salaam, meaning ‘peace’…

 

… It is not the majority of people who know that Islam reveres Jesus Christ as a prophet of God and his mother Mary as a chosen vessel…

 

…We may be misled into thinking that Jihad means ‘holy war’ and is something waged by Muslims in a military sense…

 

On the contrary, the primary meaning of the word refers to a ‘struggle’ or ‘exertion’ on behalf of the believer with his heart against evil.

 

 

The Muslim presence in Australia dates back to the 17th Century when the Makassan traders of Indonesia made contact with the Indigenous people of northern Australia

 

…but it was not until the 1860s that a Muslim community began to emerge in Australia.

 

A large number of ‘Afghan’ cameleers arrived in Australia to work the camel trains which opened up the interior of the continent.

 

I was only recently reminded of this fact when I was in Broken Hill last month and visited there one of Australia’s oldest Mosques.[1]

 

I was both saddened and inspired by the humble mosque which has been closed because of its run-down state and yet glows with so much history of the cameleers who made Broken Hill their home.

 

Tonight’s inter-faith dialogue and inter-community friendship is more of what is needed to help dispel myths and negative stereotypes…

 

…It will enable us to find common ground, respect differences and celebrate our diverse community…

 

…and it will also allow us to explore our own identity against the backdrop of this diversity…

 

…as people coming together through a shared spirit of friendship.



[1] The oldest Australian mosque is situated near Maree in South Australia