Parramatta councillors pray for guidance

A Christian prayer will be said before each Parramatta Council meeting after a divisive debate on on Monday.

The motion to re-introduced a prayer to the chamber was put forward by Liberal councillor Bakous Makari and won a narrow vote with the support of independent councillor Paul Garrard.  

Despite the diversity of faiths and beliefs represented in Parramatta, the three-minute prayer will be specifically Christian.

President of Parramatta Mosque Neil El-Kadomi said the idea of a prayer at council was ‘‘silly’’ and ‘‘discrimination’’.

‘‘When the council starts to talk about trying to be religious, they are dividing the community,’’ he said.

‘‘They should not really bring religion into council; what are they going to pray for, how they charge us rates?

‘‘I respect the councillors but it’s not a Christian council, it’s everyone’s council.

‘‘Not only Christians pay rates, Muslims pay rates, everyone pays rates.’’

Mr El-Kadomi said he had been approached by the council about 18 month to two years ago about saying a Muslim prayer before a council meeting.

He declined, he said, because he believed politics and religion should be kept separate.

At the time of the 2011 Census 43,991 residents, or 26.4 per cent, said they were Catholic.

The next largest representation was people of no religion, 25,112 people, or, 15 per cent of Parramatta’s population.

There were 17,235 Anglicans, 10.3 per cent; 16,161 Muslims, 9.7 per cent and 14,639 Hindus, 8.8 per cent.

More than 3200 people said they practiced other religions. 

Labor councillor Julia Finn argued against the Christian prayer motion because it was ‘‘divisive’’, she said.

‘‘I think in a city with a large population like Parramatta, introducing a prayer is divisive, I think,’’ Cr Finn said.

‘‘Without going around to all the other churches and temples and asking them to say a prayer, it’s not representative of our entire community.’’

Cr Finn said Labor councillors had made an alternative motion for a minute silence in which people could pray, or not, to whatever deity they believed in.

‘‘If people want to pray before council meetings, I personally think they should do it outside, to themselves, rather than in the chamber pretending they’re holier than thou.’’   

But Liberal councillor Jean Pierre Abood, who voted for the motion, defended the prayer.

‘‘In state and federal parliaments they say a prayer and ask for almighty God to give them the wisdom and strength to do right by the people,’’ he said.

‘‘I think there’s nothing wrong with us in local government getting up and asking the almighty God to give us strength and wisdom.

‘‘I think you’re asking a higher being to give you courage and strength to make the right decision.’’

Cr Abood did not think the Christian prayer would offend people of other faiths or those who are not religious.

‘‘We celebrate Christmas and no one gets offended when you get up and say merry Christmas,’’ he said.

‘‘After all, our democracy is based on a Judeo-Christian morality.’’

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