The Indian Crescent Society of Australia (ICSOA) held its Sixth Interfaith Forum on Thursday 12 October 2023 at the NSW Parliament House in Sydney around the theme “Importance of diversity and inclusion in today’s multicultural society” that brought together a diverse assembly of people from various faiths and backgrounds, including Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs.
Distinguished guests in attendance included politicians, diplomats, and representatives from civil society organisations. The event was marked by a spirit of unity and understanding.
Mr Fasih Khan, Secretary of ICSOA, initiated the proceedings by extending a warm welcome to the attendees and recognising the presence of guests from diverse faiths and organisations.
He provided an overview of ICSOA’s mission and accomplishments, which was complemented by a video presentation showcasing the organisation’s activities and achievements.
The President of ICSOA, Mr Abbas Raza Alvi, began his address by quoting from the Quran: “Our God and your God is the same (One). To Him, we peacefully surrender (Submit).” (Quran 29:46)
He emphasised the need for global peace, citing a report from the Institute of Economics and Peace, which indicated a decline in global peace over the past decade. He also highlighted the significant economic costs of violence, underscoring the urgency of promoting peace and harmony.
Mr Alvi stressed the importance of interfaith dialogue as part of the solution to conflicts. Interfaith dialogue involves constructive and positive interactions among individuals and institutions representing various religious traditions, faiths, or spiritual beliefs.
The forum featured a series of speakers, each introduced by ICSOA members: Mr Abbas Chelat, Mr Siddiq Panwala, Master Zohaib Khan, Mr Fasih Khan, Mrs Iram Rasheed, Mrs Amrin Khan, Mrs Farida Alvi, and Mrs Safia Chelat, addressing the topic of diversity and inclusion.
Notable speakers expressed their views and thoughts on the theme included:
- Hon Stephen Kamper, Minister for Multiculturalism, Labour MP
- Hon Jihad Dib, Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government of NSW, Labour MP
- Hon Mark Coure, Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism Liberal MP
- Hon Dr Amenda Cohen, Greens MLC
- Charles Prouse, Managing Director of NyikBar
- Manpreet Vohra, High Commissioner of India
- Manish Gupta, Consul General of India in Sydney
- Rabbi Zalman Kastel, representing Judaism
- Rev Dr. Patrick J McInerney, representing Christianity
- Pandit Venkatraman Shastri, representing Hinduism
- Maulana Amir Inam Ul Haq Kausar, representing Islam
The presence of the following guests were also recognised:
- Hon Stephen Bali, Labor MP
- Hon Julia Finn
- Hon Warren Kirby
- Hon Matt Cross, MP
- Hon Robyn Preston, MP
- Rev Meredith Williams
- Rev Manas Ghosh
The event also included special recognitions and awards:
Late Jeremy Jones, former Director of International and Community Affairs at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, received the Award of Community Excellence, accepted by his wife, Mrs Naomi Jones.
Rev Dr Patrick J McInerney from the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations was honoured with a gift from ICSOA members.
Dr McInerney’s address emphasised the diversity in Australia and the commonalities among people of various faiths, promoting cooperation and unity to fulfil their shared mission of universal concern, inclusivity, and connectivity.
Additional awards were presented to:
Mr Ahmad Polat, CEO of Affinity International, received the Award of Excellence for Community Service.
Father Russell Davies was conferred with a Lifetime Award of Excellence, where these awards were presented by Hon Stephen Kamper.
The event also featured a gesture of unity as the “SIGNED CARDS” were presented to the NSW Parliament by Hindus for Human Rights, Pitt Street Church, Muslim Collective, and ARRCC, with Hon. Stephen Kamper receiving them on behalf of the Parliament.
Mr Taufeeq Sheikh of ICSOA Media organised a powerful demonstration of support for the “Voice to Parliament” by having the audience hold up Voice 23 CARDS with resounding support.
The event concluded with closing remarks from ICSOA’s Legal Advisor, Mr Siddique Panwala, who expressed gratitude to the guests, speakers, parliamentarians, and the attentive audience for their active participation in this meaningful interfaith dialogue.