Over 200 guests were welcomed to the event by a dynamic performance from the Earthern Rhythms African Drumming group after which official guests were piped into the Function Centre by Peter Campbell.
Aboriginal Historian Professor John Maynard acknowledged the Awabakal people the traditional owners of the land with an interesting account of the “Legend of the Giant Kangaroo” who resides in what we call Nobbys Headland.
This was followed by an impressive candle lighting ceremony by community leaders from the Anglican, Buddhist, Catholic, Latter-day Saints, Sikh, Uniting Church and Zara’s House for Refugee Women and Children who lit seven candles to represent seven critical aspects of unity.
These leaders were the Very Reverend Katherine Bowyer Anglican Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Mr Greg Heathcote Buddhist Chaplain of the University of Newcastle, Bishop William Wright, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland – Newcastle, Mr Jacob Whiting Stake President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mr Amarjit Singh Chawla Sikh Chaplain University of Newcastle, Pastor Kim Langford of the Uniting Church and Sister Diana Santleben of Zara’s House for Refugee Women and Children.
With the candles alight, Bree Young gave an impressive rendition of the classic John Lennon song “Imagine”, accompanied by jazz musician, Terence Koo.
Di James, the Secretary of the Bahá’ís of Newcastle, gave a brief explanation of the impact of the Bab’s life. Di described the Bab as a courageous young man whose vision for a new society included the equality of men and women, and the elimination of poverty, prejudice, and religious intolerance. These were huge issues in 19th century Persia where inequality was fuelled by rampant corruption, and where oppression, injustice and cruelty were the way of life for the subjugated masses.
The threatened authorities instituted a relentless campaign to silence tens of thousands of the Bab’s followers who were persecuted and killed. The Bab himself was executed by firing squad at the tender age of 34, but his message of unity and oneness has lived on through his writings, and in celebrations in every state and nation of the world at this time of the bicentenary of his birth.
The official ceremony was concluded with the Youth Choir of the Latter-day Saints singing “Have I done any Good?” and our Piper Peter Campbell’s moving performance of “Amazing Grace” which caused many guests to shed a quiet tear.
Ms Sharon Claydon Federal Member for Newcastle, shared some of the Prime Minister’s address to Parliament wherein he thanked the Baha'i community for its commitment to the ideals of peace, unity, compassion and purpose that enrich our community and help make our multicultural, multi-faith society one of the most harmonious on earth.
Other guests included Deacon Greg Kerr the Co-ordinator of the Chaplaincy of the University of Newcastle and Mrs Terry Kerr. Other university chaplains present were Mr Tom Jones (Baha’i Faith), Imam Mohamed Mohamed (Muslim Religion) and Mr Graham Clark (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). As well as Mrs Alyson Segott of the Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland - Newcastle and Mrs Christine Sheppard Chair of Ecumenical Interfaith Council of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland –Newcastle.
After refreshments the guests were further entertained by jazz musician Terence Koo and finally by the Indian Nartana School of Dance Group whose interaction with the audience had most of them clapping in time or dancing.
The evening was inspiring and underscored the importance of unity and oneness in our Newcastle community.