Preservation of religious freedom, inclusion, and pluralism are among the topics to be discussed at the Religious Freedom Roundtable in Sydney.

Australian Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson is hosting the Religious Freedom Roundtable beginning today in Sydney, with the primary goal of discussing advancing religious freedom in Australia in light of human rights challenges in the country. In attendance are members of the Jewish, Muslim, Hindi, Catholic, Anglican, Baha’i, Russian Orthodox and Buddhist religions. Representatives from the Church of Scientology, Seventh Day Adventists, the Rationalist Society, the Humanist Society and the Atheist Foundation will also be present.

Wilson commented on the significance of a diverse group of participants: “The protection of religious freedom is critical to a broad cross-section of communities, including those of belief, those without a belief, and those whose communities are affected by religious freedom.”

The preservation of religious freedom is an overarching theme in the forum, while also touching upon religious inclusion, religious pluralism and social cohesion. Wilson emphasized the importance of coming up with new approaches to “ensure [that] religious freedom of those with or without belief is respected in a truly pluralist society.”

Australian Attorney-General Senator George Brandis made an opening address to the Religious Freedom Roundtable, commenting that such discussions among people of varying faiths were “useful in shaping the government’s agenda, so far as it affects both people of religious faith and people who do not profess religious beliefs.” He also asserted that “religious freedom is every bit as important as political freedom,” solidifying the Roundtable’s stance and primary objective.

Brandis went on to describe the inconsistency in the status quo relating to religious tolerance. He cited members of the Islamic community and the Catholic church, who in the current day, still fall prey to hostility and mockery. Muslims are victims of ignorant blame for terrorist violence while Catholics are subject to insults by well-known writers and commentators.

Commissioner Wilson spoke about the role of the religious faithful in “reshaping the conversation about religious freedom if it is to be preserved in law.”

Below is a list of participating organizations:

  • Anglican Church of Australia
  • Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines
  • Atheist Foundation of Australia
  • Australian Baha’i Community
  • Australian Baptist Ministries
  • Australian Catholic Bishops Conference – National office for the Participation of Women
  • Australian Christian Churches
  • Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney
  • Church of Scientology Australia
  • Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils
  • Hindu Foundation of Australia
  • Humanist Society of NSW
  • Lutheran Church of Australia
  • New Organisation of Rabbis of Australasia
  • Office of The Grand Mufti of Australia
  • Presbyterian Church of Australia
  • Rabbinic Council of Progressive Rabbis of Australia
  • Rationalist Society of Australia
  • Religious Society of Friends in Australia (Quakers)
  • Secular Coalition of Australia
  • Seventh-day Adventist Church – Australian Union Conference
  • Sikh Nishkam Society
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
  • The Russian Orthodox Church – Australian and New Zealand Diocese
  • United Muslim Women’s Association
  • Uniting Justice Australia

Two more roundtables will be held in February 2016, summits that will allow the sharing of views of non-faith groups and LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) communities.

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