30 April 2019
One of the most basic tenets of any civilised modern society is respect for the freedom of all people to peacefully assemble and worship according to the customs and traditions of their faith.
This is enshrined in article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which in 1966 reaffirmed that every human being is entitled to the freedom of religious belief and practice.
Acts such as those perpetrated by Sri Lankan jihadists who martyred Christians celebrating Easter must therefore not be seen as senseless acts of violence. Rather, they must be seen as a deliberate, calculated and violent rejection of the commitment to free religious belief committed to by nations such as Australia and Sri Lanka over 50 years ago.
Such tragedies painfully emphasise the potent forces of hatred that exist within this world and remind us of the importance of teaching our children, who are the leaders of today and tomorrow, respect both for one another and for the principles of free speech, free assembly and free religious belief.
It is vitally important that in this dark hour the Sri Lankan nation and in particular the Sri Lankan Christian community understand that nations such as Australia stand with them in solidarity.
Their pain is our pain, their tears our tears and their wounds our wounds to help heal as best we can.
It must be noted that these Christian martyrs of Sri Lanka, among them two Australian citizens, two Victorians, did not die in vain.
In taking part in Easter Sunday services they were joyously celebrating the fundamental Christian belief that in death we are afforded the hope of eternal life with our Creator.
It is my hope that their Christian faith might in some way bring comfort and healing to the sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers from whom they have for a time been taken.
May they be welcomed into the loving embrace of their Creator, and may they rest in peace.