The opportunity to connect, celebrate and learn from the three Abrahamic faiths, brought a host of audience to the annual Abraham Day event, held at the University of Notre Dame Fremantle on Tuesday, 26 October.
Themed “Hope in Unsettling Times,” Perth Auxiliary Bishop Don Sproxton, joined by Perth Islamic Community Leader, Sheikh Muhammad Agherdien and Perth Hebrew Congregation Chief Rabbi Daniel Lieberman each delivered speeches, then took turns answering questions.
Bishop Don opened his speech by noting the importance of Abraham in the Islamic, Jewish, and Catholic traditions, and provided some of the ways each tradition can learn from “his story, the road to faith and trust in God.”
“The life and experiences of Abraham teach us that the road to faith, is a journey that can have many twists and turns and will be mysterious.
“There is the need for each of us on this journey through life to learn the art of discernment, to hear the Spirit of God speaking in the events of life and to listen deeply to what is being said in those experiences and events.”
Abraham, Bishop Don added, although faced with feelings of unhappiness and inadequacy due to being “without land and without a son,” eventually learned that he could lean on God – and God did give him a son.
Drawing from Pope Francis’ book “Let us Dream: The path to a Better Future,” Bishop Don cited Pope Francis had reviewed the importance of fraternity and recognised how it revealed something about the human condition.
“Pope Francis discerns that as we are hardwired to belong to community we naturally seek to be with and collaborate with others. No one is saved alone. This fundamental characteristic of the humanity will mean that we work for a new politics of inclusion, which will counter excessive individualism and the aggressive populism of recent times that loves to identify and hunt out enemies at home and abroad,” Bishop Don said.
“Without the ‘We’ of a people, of a family, of institutions, of society that transcends the ‘I’ of individual interests, we are left with a battle for supremacy between factions and interests”.
Rabbi Lieberman began his speech by recounting some of the grieves and struggles faced by the Jewish community for the past 2500 years.
“There are three things that a nation needs to be considered a nation – common land, common language and a common history – We have none of that,” Rabbi Lieberman cited.
“But the fact that Judaism is still around is testament that the Almighty still wants us here and that there is hope for the future.”
Rabbi Lieberman concluded by stating that “Judaism is all about the search for truth.”
“Our search for the Almighty, who is the ‘truth’ has sustained us throughout our history – This is why we have always been true to ourselves to seek and spread truth,” he said.
“…If we are honest with our truth, we will have hope.”
In his message, Sheikh Agherdien spoke about the power of leaning on God, in a world full of challenges and uncertainty.
“It is part of the human condition to face uncertainty in the world – but then we must have hope.
“History has shown that humans, throughout the thousands of years, have survived all sorts of devastations, calamities, struggles.
“In the Islamic tradition, Allah calls us the representatives of God, and it is by nature that God would not burden ‘His people’ with anything more that they can bear.”
For humans to face challenges, Sheikh Agherdien added that it the responsibility of everyone in the world, regardless of faith backgrounds etc, to solve all challenges together and restore ‘hope in humanity in large.’
In the story of Abraham, it was through his prayers and his wife Hager’s actions that God granted the family water when they were thirsty, Sheikh Agherdien went on to state.
“It was through the collaborative effort of the two, that helped them in the time of their need.”
Quoting the Quran, Sheikh Agherdien concluded his speech with the words, “Do not despair of the help, mercy, and grace given by God – because only disbelievers would reject the concept of help, faith and expectation to work for the better man of society.”