Address for the opening and blessing of the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations at the Institute for Mission, Blacktown, 28 February 2018
I welcome you all, particularly leaders of Jewish, Muslim, Christian and other faiths, to the opening of the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim relations. I am very pleased that the Diocese of Parramatta is able to work in partnership with the Columbans in promoting Christian-Muslim dialogue and enhancing interfaith relations through this Centre.
In Western Sydney which is where the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta is situated, we are blessed with Muslim communities as diverse as our nation itself. There are those have been here for generations, as well as those who have only just arrived from war-torn countries like Iraq and Syria. We stand united as citizens of Australia and as brothers and sisters of the human family. We stand in celebration of our common humanity and dedication to peace and justice for all.
During the time of my installation some 18 months ago, there was a degree of tension between Muslim and non-Muslim Australians due to the various events at home and abroad. I pledged myself to continue the legacy of my predecessors, especially Bishop Kevin Manning who was a bridge builder between the Christian and Muslim communities in Western Sydney. I believe we must foster pathways across the political and religious divide to build an inclusive and harmonious society. Since then, I have endeavoured to make good of my pledge by way of strengthening the bonds of friendship with local Muslim communities.
I am so pleased that the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations is now located in the heart of our Diocese and the heart of Western Sydney. We are the epitome of multicultural, multi-faith and ethnically diverse Australia. The Centre will play a vital role in building bridges in our community, bridges of understanding, inclusion and solidarity instead walls of prejudice, division and exclusion.
Jesus constantly went beyond the borders of every kind and affirmed the humanity of all. In so doing, he invites us to step beyond our fears, our tribal confines and to expand the boundaries of our love. Our mission as Christians is to make peace, to nurture goodwill and to facilitate unity in the face of economic and social inequality, cultural polarisation and fragmentation. We can be the places that refuse to be tribal, that create spaces of welcome and encounter and address mutual suspicion.
It is my hope that this Centre will facilitate better understanding and appreciation of each other’s faith among Muslim and Christian Australians. We can learn to be humble servants who work for unity in diversity and respect for differences. I thank the Columbans and their associates for their commitment to interfaith relations through this Centre.
With the men and women of goodwill, let us build a better Australia and a better world. May our endeavour to build true peace and unity be brought to fulfilment in accordance with God’s vision of the fullness of life for all humanity.
PRAYER OF BLESSING:
May God, who abides with all who seek you with a sincere heart,
Bless this centre for Muslim-Christian Relations.
May it be a place where truth is deepened, understanding is enriched, unity is strengthened and diversity is enhanced. But above all, may it be a place where Christians and Muslims join hands in friendship, mutual respect and love, so that they may build bridges of reconciliation, peace and harmony for the wider society.
May God bless us with the ability to speak with integrity
and to work with uncompromising diligence.
May God help us focus on what truly matters
and give us the insight to discern what is right.
May God fill our hearts with love
and may that love determine the course we take
and shape all our interactions.
May God give us
Wisdom to make good decisions,
Courage to take the necessary risks,
Unshakeable hope to maintain a steadfast Spirit,
Good humour to keep things in perspective,
and deep trust so that as we risk,
we remain grounded in God.
May God bless us with the personal joy of knowing
that we have acted out of love,
that we have done our best,
and that we have served God with all our hearts.
Most Rev Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv
Bishop of Parramatta