The commonalities between religions rather than differences will be the major focus as Ballarat Interfaith Network holds its annual celebration of World Interfaith Harmony Week on Monday.
The global event began in 2011 when King Abdullah II of Jordan called for Muslim and Christian leaders to engage in a dialogue based on two common fundamental commandments, love of god and love of neighbour.
Ballarat’s keynote speaker Kamelia Khosh is a member of the Bahá’í community.
She said the Bahá’í faith did not support the view that one tradition alone taught truth and constituted the way to salvation.
Rather the faith looked upon all world religions as successive stages in the spiritual history of mankind.
“The fact that we imagine ourselves to be right and everybody is wrong is the greatest of all obstacles in the path towards unity,” Ms Khosh said. “And unity is necessary if we would reach truth, for truth is one.”
While there has been long-held animosities and prejudices between the faiths, Ms Khosh said appeals for mutual tolerance alone were not enough.
“We need a break from the past, as decisive as those that opened the way for society to address equally corrosive prejudices of race and gender,” she said. “The recognition in the oneness of religions arises not through a resolution of theological disputes, but from a dawning acceptance of the oneness of the human family itself.”
Ms Khosh said religions could not afford to advance separately, instead spiritual progress needed to be global.
“Australia is rich in its diversity, religious unity must be an inseparable part of its future,” she said.
“The importance of interfaith harmony and respect is a topic that we should all be anxiously concerned about, as our failure to achieve it has very real and negative consequences.”
Ballarat Interfaith Network’s program of events will also include an acknowledgement of country and didgeridoo performance from Peter Lovett, a welcoming address from mayor Samantha McIntosh and singing from St Alipius Primary School pupils under the direction of Adam Cameron.
But the network has said its interfaith flag will not be flown this year due to Ballarat City Council being yet to determine its flag policy.
The council concluded it needed its own policy following a meeting in September, where it was voted to not fly the gay pride flag prior to the plebiscite vote on changing Australia’s marriage law.
Held in partnership with Ballarat City Council, the event will take place at Queen Victoria Square in front of the Town Hall, on Monday, February 5, at 11am. All welcome to attend.