For a celebration like Harmony Day, it would be difficult to find a more apt setting than the Nan Tien Temple.
One of the biggest Buddhist temples in the southern hemisphere and a solemn place of prayer and introspection for thousands of worshippers from around the world, the Berkeley site became an epicentre for the region’s entire cultural and religious community on Sunday as part of a large inter-faith celebration.
The Harmony Day event, which hosted performances and presentations from the Catholic, Hindu, Islamic and Jewish communities among others, aimed to foster dialogue and understanding between the myriad of cultures that make up the Illawarra’s community fabric.
“We hope to raise awareness for the different multicultural groups that live here, and raise tolerance of diversity,” said the temple’s Reverend Miao You.
“There are so many cultures and languages in the Illawarra and we wanted to recognise them all today.”
NSW governor Marie Bashir was the guest of honour at the day’s centrepiece event inside the main temple, with an indigenous welcome to country, song and dance opening proceedings.
Thousands of people of all creeds and cultures wandered the temple grounds through the day; lighting incense sticks, eating traditional vegetarian meals, or simply taking in the beautiful architecture or gardens inside the complex.
“Today is about all parts of the community coming together to exchange our ideas and views,” said George Bartolo, vice-chair of the Multicultural Communities Council of Illawarra.
“We come from different backgrounds, but we can learn from each other. Events like this help everybody.”
Raj Detta, president of the Deepavali festival committee of NSW, echoed the sentiments.
“Migrants from every part of the world come to Australia. Harmony Day is about showing them, regardless of their background, that we are all really so similar,” he said.
Harmony Day marks the start of a big year for the Nan Tien temple, with 2014 marking the temple’s 20th anniversary. The weekend of October 4-5 will be the centre’s official anniversary celebrations, while the feted Nan Tien Institute campus is anticipated to open in March 2015.