Commemorating Harmony Day with an interfaith dialogue, special guest speakers, the Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed and Archbishop Amel Nona, Bishop of the Chaldean Diocese of St Thomas the Apostle of Australia and New Zealand


Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (10:01): Harmony Day is celebrated on Monday, 21 March and it coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Harmony Day has been celebrated in Australia since 1999, and it serves as an important reminder that we need to foster an inclusive and respectful Australia, where all Australians feel a sense of belonging and a sense of quality. This year's theme for Harmony Day is 'Our diversity is our strength'. We have worked very hard as a country to build a strong and cohesive multicultural society that is often looked upon as a model of success by other countries. We have been successful in settling people from all over the world, and in turn migrants have helped build this country. We as a community are stronger and better for it.

I did have the opportunity this week in parliament to commemorate Harmony Day and celebrate the theme of 'Our diversity is our strength'. Last night I co-hosted an interfaith dialogue commemorating Harmony Day with my parliamentary colleague and co-chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Multiculturalism, the member for Macmillan, Mr Russell Broadbent, in conjunction with Religions for Peace and the Canberra Interfaith Forum.  

Religions for Peace is a global, community based organisation working for peace across the world and for social and religious cohesion in Australia and globally. The chair of Religions for Peace, Professor Desmond Cahill, was present to address the audience, and I would like to thank Prof Cahill for his efforts in pursuing interfaith tolerance in the Australian society. I also thank to Sue Innes from Religions for Peace for helping to coordinate the event.

The Canberra Interfaith Forum is an association of people from 12 different spiritual traditions in Canberra. The forum supports interfaith activities in Canberra and promotes multicultural harmony in the capital within a formal group setting. The chair of Canberra Interfaith Forum, Mr Dean Sahu Kahn, addressed the audience; and I want to thank Dean for his efforts in the Canberra community.


I was also pleased that the two guest speakers for the function were religious leaders who represent two of the largest communities in my electorate—the Islamic community and the Chaldean Catholic community. The Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, holds the highest post for an Islamic scholar in Australia, and Archbishop Amel Nona, the Bishop of the Chaldean Diocese of St Thomas the Apostle of Australia and New Zealand, appointed by Pope Francis last year to lead the Chaldean Catholics in Australia and New Zealand.

The two guest speakers came together to discuss and reflect on the topic, 'Creating a religious harmonious society in Australia: Issues and challenges'. Whilst the speakers recognise that there are issues and challenges within their communities and their relations within the broader society, they acknowledge that Australia is largely a successful multicultural society. The fact that these two religious leaders could come together and address a religiously diverse audience was the perfect way to commemorate Harmony Day and to reinforce the importance of inclusiveness and the benefits of cultural diversity.