Multi-Faith Prayer Service
Published: 10 Jan 2020 11:16am
A large crowd gathered in the Victory Memorial Gardens on Wednesday night in a show of solidarity with victims of the Dunns Road bushfire, emergency personnel fighting the blaze and communities grappling with the enormity of the disaster.
The Multi-Faith Prayer Service, coordinated by the Muslim Association Riverina Wagga Wagga (MARWA) with support from other religious groups, opened with a stirring rendition of Amazing Grace.
“We were gifted with an incredible performance by a Vanuatu choir,” Mayor of the City of Wagga Wagga, Councillor Greg Conkey OAM, the Master of Ceremonies, said.
“These men were all working in Batlow picking fruit when they were displaced by the Dunns Road Bushfire.
“Their performance rightly earned multiple rounds of grateful applause.”
The contingent of Pacific Islander workers also closed out the service with a string of uplifting and powerful gospel songs well known in their homeland.
Catholic priest Reverend Paddy Sykes provided the opening prayer and addressed the sheer scale of the calamity.
"Fire has been raging around this great continent like a wild beast, consuming all in its path," he said.
Member for Wagga Dr Joe McGirr was next to address the approximately 250 attendees, describing his shock at the scale of the disaster and what he has witnessed while travelling to affected towns including Batlow and Tumbarumba.
“There will be a time when we will need to have a discussion on how to prevent bushfires like this in the future and how we can better respond to these types of emergencies,” he said.
Dr Waseem Afzal of MARWA delivered the closing prayer.
He was inspired to instigate the prayer service as way to offer evacuees an opportunity to be embraced by the wider community, giving them an empowering sense of belonging.
“This is obviously a time of great distress and difficulties and a lot of people looking to show their support for those who have been affected,” he said.
"Prayer is an expression from the heart. It is a way to find comfort and to provide solace.”
The service was open to people of all faiths, as well as non-believers.
Members of Wagga’s Burmese, Hindu, Yazidi, Persian and African communities were in attendance.
Visitors enjoyed a supper provided by the Country Women’s Association and Wollundry Rotary at the completion of the service.