Editor-In-Chief: Charbel Baini

FOREIGN MINISTER BOB CARR: SPEECH: EID AL ADHA CELEBRATION

Eid al Adha

I am delighted to join you for Eid al-Adha (id al ata) or the Feast of the Sacrifice which marks the end of the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.

Today Muslims around the world give thanks.

This celebration is a reminder of the important role of Islam in the lives of many Australians.

Australia is home to nearly half a million Muslims and Islam is our country's third largest religion (behind Christianity and Buddhism). 

Australian Muslims contribute strongly to Australian society.

Over a quarter of our current population was born overseas.

Over 300 ancestries were identified in the 2011 Census.

Almost one in five Australians speaks a language other than English at home.

In my first speech as a Senator in March, I quoted the King of Jordan, King Abdullah II.

In 2004 he said: “Let us avert the clash of civilisations, and help the overlap of cultures. Let us partner for peace.”

And I have worked hard to promote this since becoming Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The Australian Government funds a multitude of inter-faith, cultural overlap and community development activities overseas.

In the Philippines, our Strengthening Grassroots Interfaith Dialogue and Understanding small grants program supports peace-building activities by local community groups and NGOs. 

Since 2006, it has funded 98 projects, mainly in conflict-affected areas of Muslim Mindanao. 

The Indonesia BRIDGE program (Building Relations through Intercultural Dialogue and Growing Engagement) supports school partnerships between Australia and Indonesia. 

By the end of 2015, a network of 254 schools and 512 teachers will be established with indirect engagement of 1800 Australian and 250 Indonesian teachers and 100,000 Indonesian and 76,000 Australian students. 

Australia is contributing funding towards an “Australia Arab Women’s Dialogue” to be held across Australia in March 2013. 

Eight young women leaders from the Middle East and North Africa will participate in this dialogue. 

Through the Council for Australia-Arab Relations, we have provided 2,867 Australian high schools with a resource kit called ‘Arab Gateways.’ 

The kit aims to improve understanding of the Arab world by focusing on its geography, economy, culture and heritage. 

The kit comprises a book and student activity sheets, and interactive CD, films and web links and a website.

In 2004, Australia and Indonesia established the Regional Interfaith Dialogue (RID). 

The RID has brought together religious leaders, civil society, academia and media from South East Asia and the Pacific.



As Muslims gather to honour the will to sacrifice and the blessings of mercy, our thoughts are with those who are suffering in conflicts across the globe.

One of the worst of these is the tragedy in Syria. 

I acknowledge that many here – and many of your friends – are families and individuals who have experienced this crisis first hand – and have come to seek safety in Australia.

In September I met representatives of the Syrian and Lebanese community in Australia.

The dimensions of this crisis are appalling

Estimated 34,000 killed

More than two million in need of humanitarian assistance

More than 1 million internally displaced

More than 350,000 refugees registered or awaiting registration in neighbouring countries.

The Assad regime has deployed the most brutal and horrifying tactics against the men, women and children of Syria.

On August 4, I visited refugee camps at Za-atri and Bashabsheh in Jordan and met those who have fled the crisis in Syria.

Australia has committed over $24 million in aid

making us the third-largest national humanitarian donor.

The press statement issued by the UNSC on October 24 was a positive step.

The Council has made clear its support for the initiative of the Joint Special Representative of the UN and Arab League, Lakhdar Brahimi, for a ceasefire over the Eid Al Adha holiday (starts Friday October 26, goes for 3-4 days).

Australia strongly supports Mr Brahimi’s initiative.

We call on the Syrian Government and all opposition forces in Syria to implement a ceasefire.

It is critical that all sides agree to Mr Brahimi’s proposal.

It would be a significant, first step towards peace.

It would allow some space for genuine political dialogue and improved humanitarian access.

But we have seen ceasefires broken before in Syria, so it remains to be seen if this will occur. 

Australia also strongly supports the UNSC’s call for all parties – and in particular the Syrian authorities – to cooperate fully with the UN and others on the provision of humanitarian assistance.

I recently put forward a plan for Syria’s health sector

Securing a commitment from all sides not to target medical personnel or facilities; and not to block access to doctors, hospitals or emergency care

Consideration of a neutral third party to monitor implementation of the plan; and

Continued provision of humanitarian assistance.

I have discussed this plan with Joint Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi; UN Emergency Coordinator Valerie Amos; Arab League Secretary General Nabil El Araby; and the Foreign Ministers of Turkey (Davuto─člu) and Belgium (Reynders).

Lebanon

The crisis in Syria poses a serious risk to stability in the region.

It is already spilling over its borders – to Turkey and more recently to Lebanon.

The Australian Government strongly condemns the car bomb attacks that occurred in eastern Beirut on October 19.

Our thoughts are with the families of those killed and injured.

Many people here have strong family and personal connections in Lebanon and this attack has been felt deeply.

I’ve been advised that members of the community have travelled to Lebanon to grieve with and support friends and family.

This is the first bombing attack in Beirut since 2008.

At this stage no group has claimed responsibility.

We call on all parties, internationally and within Lebanon and Syria, to exercise restraint - further escalation of this violence is in no one’s interests.

For now, we must let Lebanese intelligence and security forces conduct their investigations and allow their legal processes to run their course.

Those responsible for these cowardly attacks must be brought to justice.

Palestine

Australia supports a negotiated two-state solution that will lead to an independent Palestinian state.

I visited the Palestinian Territories and Israel in August – and urged for negotiations to resume.

I underlined to the Israeli’s that settlement activity was unhelpful to the peace process and should stop.

While in Ramallah on August 6, I met President Abbas, Prime Minister Fayyad and Foreign Minister Al-Malki.

I have reaffirmed that both President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad would be welcome visitors to Australia.

Australia’s support for the Palestinian people and Palestinian institution building is a tangible commitment to the peace process

$300 million over five years, including:

$90 million to UNRWA for Palestinian refugees

$120 million direct budget support to the Palestinian Authority.

Australia has changed our position on nine UN resolutions since 2007 in support of Palestinian interests.

On a possible UNGA resolution on Palestinian statehood – Australia will decide if and when a resolution is referred to the Assembly based on merits of the text.

Australia – Arab links

Since becoming Foreign Minister I have visited 10 countries in the Middle East and north Africa – Oman, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Israel, Palestinian Territories and Egypt.

In Cairo in September, I met:

The President of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi

Arab League Secretary General Nabil El-Araby

His Eminence Sheikh El Tayeb Grand Imam of Al Azha

His Grace, Bishop Bakhomios, Acting Patriarch of the Coptic Church.

Australia’s formal links with regional organisations are growing:

I participated in the second Australia- Gulf Cooperation Council dialogue in New York last month

We have a formal dialogue with the Arab League

And we have a framework of cooperation with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation

We have senior officials talks with the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, and Iraq

We have agreed to hold these talks with Libya, Oman, Algeria and Morocco

We have long-standing links with the Arab world

trade $13.4 billion in 2011;

over 18,000 students from Middle East studying in Australia in 2011; and

over 370,000 Australians of Arab descent.

Australia is supporting the democratic transition of:

Egypt ($20.8 million over 2011-15);

Tunisia ($4.8 million)

Libya ($44.6 million);

Iraq ($360 million since 2003).

Innocence of Muslims

It is these links that we must remind ourselves of in the face of the efforts of extremist minorities to incite violence or create gaps between cultures.

I said at the time, that the work behind Innocence of Muslims was that of a lone nutter.

It was abhorrent.

And the acts of violence we saw in the streets of Sydney were those of a minority.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the leaders of Australia’s Muslim community, both in Sydney and Melbourne in particular, for their efforts in quelling this unrest and encouraging community members to express their outrage at this film through peaceful and constructive means.

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