Office for Justice and Peace
This week, the Archdiocese of Melbourne has joined many countries around the world to stand in solidarity for religious freedom against persecution, by remembering those who have been persecuted for their faith.
Red Wednesday week concluded with an Ecumenical and Interfaith Gathering at the Cardinal Knox Centre on Wednesday 27 November. Representatives from many different faiths and denominations gathered to remember all people persecuted before of their faith and to stand together for peace.
Faith representatives gave reflections and drew from their own faith traditions and sacred texts.
A common theme that was highlighted, across many of these speeches, was the need for people of all faiths to be bearers of peace and to love one another, in actions not just words.
Speaking at the event, Fr Cameron Forbes, Chair of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne said, “Faith provides us an integrated vision of our whole lives. And the persecution of faith is so unacceptable because it stifles the innermost aspect of the human person. It stops them from living from their heart and being who they really are. And any response to faith is peace and loving one another.”
President of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, Jennifer Huppert, said, “This gathering symbolises the strength of our community in Victoria. We can gather together, people from different faiths, people from different cultures, people who originate from different lands together in peace. And it is unfortunate that there are many places around the world where many people cannot gather the way we do here.”
Sheikh Kumail Mehdavi said: “I am a Shi’a Muslim from Pakistan… people from the Shi’a faith have been targeted in Pakistan and our Christian brothers and our Hindu brothers as well. That’s why I am speaking here not only as a Shi’a Muslim, but as a Pakistani and as a human being. Every human being has a right to practice his religious beliefs without any fear of being targeted.”
Those gathered reflected on a news clip shown of a Muslim man forgiving the man who murdered his wife at the Christchurch mosque shooting.
Dr Di Cousens from the Buddhist Council of Victoria read a poem reflecting on this terrorist attack.
Rev Ian Smith from the Victorian Council of Churches said that tonight “reminds us of our responsibility to be peacemakers. It is really easy to criticise the other for not doing it. It is much harder to take responsibility.”
Referring to the news clip, Rev Smith said, “My challenge to you is… how do we embody that in our daily lives?”
At the end of the night, those gathered agreed to make the following commitment: “We, the faith communities of Melbourne commit ourselves to working for peace and the elimination of religious discrimination and persecution throughout the world."
Red Wednesday is a global movement, initiated by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), to stand in solidarity with all those who are persecuted for their peacefully held religious beliefs. In countries around the world including the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Ireland and the Philippines, prominent buildings and churches were lit in red to raise awareness.
On social media, use the hashtag #RedWednesday.