16 Mar 2023 - by Liz Jakimow
The Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture (ACC&C) hosted the Canberra Commonwealth Day Multi-Faith celebration this week, it was a wonderful display of faith, inclusivity, culture, colour, and festivity, representing the different countries of the Commonwealth and world faiths.
Even before the service started, the packed Chapel was a vibrant mix of Commonwealth flags, cultural costumes, and beaming smiles, all accompanied by joyous singing from the Papuan New Guinea Peroveta Singers of Canberra and the Fijian Christian Inter-denominational Choir.
The start of the service was marked by the Great Bell being rung in recognition of each of the 56 Member States of the Commonwealth, followed by the Fijian Lali Drum to welcome everyone.
A welcome address was given by Professor Anthony Maher, Executive Director for the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, on the theme of the week, ‘Delivering a Common Future’.
The Acknowledgement of Country was given by Bevan Smith, whose story-telling abilities along with his didgeridoo-playing helped everyone imagine the animals belonging to each sound.
This was then followed by the Australian Hymn, sung by the Canberra Men’s Choir.
There was then a tribute to the late Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, by the Reverend David Campbell, Chair of the ACT Churches Council. The Commonwealth Day Message from His Majesty King Charles III was read by Hon Professor Matthew Neuhaus, Former Ambassador to the Netherlands and President of the Royal Commonwealth Society in the ACT. Governor General of Australia, His Excellency Gen David Hurley, was unable to be there on the day, but sent a video message reflection on the Commonwealth Day message. A message from the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP, was read by Mr David Smith MP, Federal Member for Bean.
Prayers and sacred readings followed from nine different faith leaders, including Ms Becky Langworthy representing Catholicism, Ms Shephalie Williams representing Baháʼí, Dr Brian Wimborne representing Judaism, Mr Santosh Gupta representing Hinduism, Mr Dilmohan Singh representing Sikhism, The Reverend Carol Wagner representing Anglicanism, Mr Praveen Jain representing Jainism, the Venerable Tempa Bejanke representing Buddhism and Mr Muhammed Sadru (Dean) Sahu representing Islam.
The prayers and readings were not only a powerful symbol of harmony and unity, but they also highlighted the richness and beauty to be found in the different faith traditions. Many of these readings spoke of a common or shared humanity, including Psalm 133, read by Dr Brian Wimborne.
How good and how pleasant it is
That brothers dwell together.
It is like fine oil on the head
Running down onto the beard,
The beard of Aaron,
That comes down over the collar of his robe;
Like the dew of Hermon
That falls upon the mountains of Zion.
There the LORD ordained blessing,
Then it was time for everyone to start smiling and dancing as we were treated to some wonderful cultural performances, starting with the dramatic Chinese Dragon Dance that came in with a bang (and some very loud music). The performance from the gorgeous Canberra Punjabi Kaur Sisters included a few cheeky moments by some incredibly talented children. The Fijian Meke Dance was an absolute joy, with some wonderful beaming faces that looked like they might break into laughter at any moment. And then there was the exuberance of the Zambezi River Drummers, which seem almost impossible to listen to without dancing – or at least smiling. Last there was the grace and artistry of the beautiful Kuchipudi South Indian classical dance and Carnatic vocal and music.
The blessing given by Professor Anthony Maher to close the celebration was a traditional Irish blessing:
May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sunshine warm upon your face;
The rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
The last song, led by the Canberra Men’s Choir and all in attendance echoed around the parliamentary triangle with boundless joy and enthusiasm: ‘We are Australian’.
There are more photos from the day here.