Eid al-Adha celebration at Lakemba Mosque
This morning I had the pleasure of speaking at the Eid al-Adha celebration at Lakemba Mosque.
I said that this celebration is a reminder of the important role of Islam in the lives of many Australians.
Australia is home to nearly half a million Muslims and Islam is our country’s third largest religion (behind Christianity and Buddhism).
Australian Muslims contribute strongly to Australian society.
I referred to my first speech as a Senator in March where I quoted the King of Jordan, King Abdullah II. In 2004 he said: “Let us avert the clash of civilisations, and help the overlap of cultures. Let us partner for peace.”
I have worked hard to promote this since becoming Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The Australian Government funds a multitude of inter-faith, cultural overlap and community development activities overseas, for example:
• in the Philippines, our Strengthening Grassroots Interfaith Dialogue and Understanding small grants program supports peace-building activities by local community groups and NGOs;
• the Indonesia BRIDGE program (Building Relations through Intercultural Dialogue and Growing Engagement) supports school partnerships between Australia and Indonesia;
• Australia is contributing funding towards an “Australia Arab Women’s Dialogue” to be held across Australia in March 2013;
• through the Council for Australia-Arab Relations, we have provided 2,867 Australian high schools with a resource kit called ‘Arab Gateways’; and
• in 2004, Australia and Indonesia established the Regional Interfaith Dialogue (RID).
I also spoke of the conflict in Syria, the appalling dimensions of this crisis and the serious risk it poses to stability in the region – it is already spilling over its borders, to Turkey and more recently to Lebanon.
Australia strongly supports the UNSC’s call for all parties – and in particular the Syrian authorities – to cooperate fully with the UN and others on the provision of humanitarian assistance.
Australia has committed over $24 million in aid making us the third-largest national humanitarian donor.
It is important to emphasise that Australia has long-standing links with the Arab world, especially in trade and education:
• trade $13.4 billion in 2011; and
• over 18,000 students from Middle East studying in Australia in 2011.
Our formal links with regional organisations are growing:
• I participated in the second Australia- Gulf Cooperation Council dialogue in New York last month;
• we have a formal dialogue with the Arab League;
• we have a framework of cooperation with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation;
• we have senior officials talks with the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, and Iraq; and
• we have agreed to hold these talks with Libya, Oman, Algeria and Morocco.
We are also supporting the democratic transition of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Iraq.
It is these links that we must remind ourselves of in the face of the efforts of extremist minorities to incite violence or create gaps between cultures.