A Canberra Muslim minority community has hosted its first inter-faith summit in the capital, calling for peace and understanding between cultures.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim community, part of a South Asian-founded Islamic movement that arrived in Australia during the 1980s, held a Peace Symposium at Albert Hall on Saturday.
Organisers reached out to representatives of other faiths within Canberra to speak at the event, including Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Christopher Prowse, Tibetan Buddhist master Lama Choedak Rinpoche and Canberra Sikh Association president Madhusudan Singh Sidhu.
ACT Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur and Pakistan High Commissioner to Australia Naela Chohan also attended the meeting, as well as a Hindu and Anglican representative.
Canberra’s Ahmadiyya population has steadily grown in recent years, though the site for a permanent mosque is still being negotiated with the ACT government.
Ahmadiyya national president, Imam Inam-ul-Haq Kauser said such symposiums had been held across Australia for about 25 years, but the weekend’s was the first to be held in Canberra.
He said the idea of the symposium was to develop understanding and care between different sections of society.
“We are struggling for peace, not just around the country but peace within yourself, in society, with the family, with parents, and peace all over the world,” he said.
“Sharing is caring, so let everyone come and bring their own religious perspectives on how we can achieve peace.”
About 200 people were expected to attend the symposium, compared to the approximately 900 at the Ahmadi’s main event in Sydney earlier this year.
With more vocal anti-Islamic sentiment in Australia, Europe and the United States, Imam Kauser said the symposium was a way to show Australia was made up of “many backgrounds, but one community”.
“Having people from different faiths, different colours, different cultures and different backgrounds sitting under one roof is a sign of love, respect and harmony with the others,” he said.
Another peace symposium is expected to be held in Canberra next year.
“I think this event is going to be very successful and I think it will grow,” Imam Kauser said.