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Opening of the legal year


Cite as: (2003) 77(3) LIJ, p.19

Five religious ceremonies marked the opening of the 2003 legal year.

Terrorism was the main theme of addresses delivered during religious services to mark the opening of the 2003 legal year on 3 February.

Hundreds of judges, solicitors, barristers and other guests gathered at five religious services – including for the first time a Buddhist ceremony – to hear about terrorism and its impact on the law and religion.

Reverend Anthony Fisher told the gathering at the Red Mass held at St Patrick’s Cathedral that the law offered, in the face of the threat of terrorism, a form of commonsense different to the Christian reaction of mercy and reconciliation.

“So many societies, communities and families have been torn apart by an unbridled escalating succession of acts of violence and revenge, with all sides pleading justice but a kind of justice informed by vindictiveness,” Reverend Fisher said.

“The law proposes an end to such feuding by refereeing disputes fairly on the basis of facts and principles, and thereby, we hope, bringing about some closure.”

Rabbi Levy Tenenbaum told the gathering at the East Melbourne Synagogue of the Jewish perspective of the law and legal process. He recounted a portion of the Torah that dealt with Jethro outlining to Moses four specific qualifications for judicial leadership – to be men of valour, God-fearing people, men of truth, and to despise money and bribes.

The Dean of Perth Dr John Shepherd told the gathering at St Paul’s Cathedral that terrorism could be regarded as society’s greatest evil because it deliberately set out to destroy the essence of what binds a community together.

Dr Shepherd said the natural inclination when staring into the face of terrorism was to withdraw into oneself. He warned against such action, but acknowledged that it was hard to remain open-minded and accepting.

“How much simpler is it to keep the gate narrow? And it’s certainly not easy to remain open and generous in a community under threat of terrorism.”

At St Eustathios Cathedral, His Eminence Archbishop Stylianos said the threat of criminal actions by terrorists raised the question of whether lawful and faithful people could respond by also engaging in criminal actions. “Or would it not be our moral obligation to instead pity them for the miserable situation into which they have fallen of their own accord?,” the Archbishop asked.

“Having said this, we by no means justify or accept the right of anyone to terrorise or kill innocent people. We only want to stress our conviction that our Christian faith would never allow us to combat terrorism by similar means or by isolating basic rules of international law.”

At the Buddhist ceremony, held at the temple at the Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery, attendees engaged in praise and chanting before conducting a prayer for social peace and harmony led by Master Hsing Yun.

Jason Silverii


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