The Prime Minister in her recent address to the UN speaks convincingly about Australia being “one of the most successful multi-cultural and multi-faith societies” where there is religious freedom and tolerance, yet for all that it seems to me that the average Aussie is still pretty ignorant about what they believe and how that could or should affect their daily lives. As I speak to young, intelligent, enthusiastic defence members who are here at Wagga being equipped for their military service I am sometimes amazed that they have never really grappled with the big questions of life and death which hinge on personal faith.
Our newly released Air Force values of Respect, Excellence, Agility, Dedication, Integrity and Teamwork are all undeniably anchored in our Australian culture, and reflect the basics of our laws and ethical principles – but where did they come from? On one level these are basic humanitarian rights, but they are also linked to the Christian beliefs of those who formed our nation. Does what we believe really matter? Is faith important? They are important questions that people often ask me, and my answer does not focus on “religion” but going back to the basics.
Next week on Thursday night at 1900 I will be starting a program called Faith Under Fire which has been developed specifically for use by members of the ADF, and aims to explore the place of faith in a modern Defence Force. It seeks to examine the unique and sometimes outrageous claims made by the Christian faith, and challenges us all as to whether our faith would hold true if put “under fire” in the inevitable tough times of life. This is a DVD based course ran by the chaplains and a few others from base, and we promise not to embarrass you, make you read or pray. It goes for 6 or 7 weeks and we would like you to be committed to the whole course, but if you can only attend a couple of nights because of other pressures, we understand, in fact there are some I can’t make! As well as that we promise to be finished by 2030!
I know what I believe, but in this multicultural, multi-faith society which offers religious freedom and tolerance, I think we all need to keep learning and growing if we are going to make it work.
Chaplain Ian S Whitley