Monday, October 27, 2008

Prayers and Politics

The question of the appropriateness of The Lord's Prayer for the opening of Parliament has been raised again. New Federal MP Rob Oakeshott wants recognition of aborigines while the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils has suggested something more inclusive. The Islamic spokesman in fact said "I have no problem with a Christian prayer -- any prayer is better than no prayer at all".

This reminds me of a debate that was conducted at Ryde City Council some years ago. At that Council one of the local Ministers of Religion is invited to open each meeting with a prayer, and the issue was raised over whether the remit should be wider than just Christians and include Muslim prayers. This was before 2001 but I recall that my thoughts then were that any faith should be welcome so long as the relevant preacher could demonstrate that he/she had preached in favour of religous tolerance in their own place of worship recently. Many of the Christian Ministers may have struggled on this one.

In the Federal parliament the issue is over the choice of prayer rather than the choice of preacher. I am here mindful of the approach of the international Credit Union movement that has historically opened all meetings with the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi (or the Peace Prayer of St Francis) which reads;

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

I for one would be very happy if our parliamentarians were to start their daily deliberations with this invocation - and then act accordingly.

PS Evidently the prayer is not the work of St Francis, but dates from World War I.

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