Days in the Diocese, Melbourne (July 20, 2008)
The “big event” for the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission in 2008 was, without a doubt, the “Interfaith Youth Pilgrimage” on Sunday 13th July. To coincide with the visit to Melbourne of 25,000 international pilgrims en route to World Youth Day in Sydney, the youth of various religious communities in Melbourne came together “on pilgrimage to one another” in order to make a joint commitment to peace.
Twelve communities were represented in this event: Baha’i, Christian (both Protestant and Catholic), Muslim (from both the Islamic Council of Victoria and the Australian Intercultural Society), Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Brahma Kumaris, Sathya Sai, Sikh and Indigenous. The event was jointly planned by the young people from these communities themselves.
Early in the afternoon, each community group met together in their own locations in various places around the city of Melbourne, in order to discuss together the themes of peace, pilgrimage and interfaith relations from their own faith perspective. The Catholic pilgrims gathered in St Patrick’s Cathedral where they were addressed by Bishop Christopher Prowse.
Each group then journeyed “on pilgrimage” to Federation Square, walking behind specially made banners which, upon arrival at the square, were used as the backdrop for the gathering space. In all, about five hundred young people were gathered for the event. A break in the weather meant that plenty of passers-by were also attracted to participate in the event.
As we came together, we walked through smoking eucalyptus leaves – a local indigenous ceremony of purification and welcome – to the sound of didgeridoo playing. Before the event itself began, a film by Buddhist participant, Freeman Trebilcock, was played on the overhead screen. The film explored the ways youth of different religious backgrounds could work together for peace.
Our MCs Br Gautam Chaitanya of the Hindu faith and Ms Inaz Janif of the Muslim faith then welcomed the crowd and handed over to local indigenous elder, Aunty Di Kerr, to do the “welcome to land” and Catholic Indigenous Ambassador to Days in the Diocese Tristan Mungatopi. The first section of the program
consisted of chants in original languages from the sacred writings of four groups relevant to the theme of peace. Deepna Benoit chanted in Sanskrit from the Hindu tradition, Freeman Trebilcock chanted the Buddhist “Four immeasurables” in Tibetan, Caroline Mense and Ms Lipson read the “Sim Shalom” and other prayers from the Jewish prayer book, and Hafiz Muhammed Sezgin chanted from the Koran.
We were then addressed by our guest speaker, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez, the Catholic Archbishop of Tegucigalpa in the Honduras and the president of Caritas International. He was enthusiastically welcomed by the crowd - cheered on by a large group of Honduran youth in the front row! Following the Cardinal’s address, Shyamini Naidu, a Hindu high school student, sang “You Raise Me Up”. Many of the pilgrims in the assembly joined in singing this well known and stirring song.
The second half of the program consisted in the presentation of four “intentions for Peace”. Jag Shergill, from the Sikh community, presented an “Intention for Love”; Amelia Ghofrany and Kylie Payman from the Baha’i community presented an “Intention for Unity”; Anish Philip from the Mar Thoma Christian community presented an “Intention for Forgiveness”, and Tristan Mungatopi of the Indigenous community presented an “Intention for Reconciliation”. In response to each intention, the crowd responded enthusiastically with the refrain “For the Sake of Peace!” The event concluded with the speakers and readers taking branches of gum leaves into the crowd, where everyone took a leaf as a reminder of their involvement in the pilgrimage and of their own commitment to peace.
Click here for Bishop Christopher Prowse's Catechesis in St Patrick's Cathedral
Click here for service order of the Catechesis in the Cathedral
Click here for photographs of the Interfaith Youth Pilgrimage at Federation Square (external site: Photos by Sam Okun from Progressive Photography)
Click here for powerpoint presentation of the Committment to Peace Ceremony at Federation Square
A DVD video of the whole event may be purchased from Progressive Photography for $45 (inc postage worldwide) or 2 copies for $75. Please direct inquires to firstname.lastname@example.org