Mosques, synagogues, churches hold unity prayers

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Religious leaders across Australia are calling on their followers to unite and pray for a peaceful end to a hostage siege in Sydney.

Mosques, synagogues and churches will welcome worshippers tonight, in what their leaders say is a show of community solidarity.

"In times of great adversity it is imperative that we remain calm, united and stand together," Lebanese Muslim Association President Samier Dandan said.

Jarrod McKenna, a Westcity Church Teaching Pastor, called on those of faith to pray "for the safety of the hostages, and that our nation will not become hostage to fear and hatred".

Vigils will be held at Lakemba Mosque and Auburn Gallipoli Mosque in Sydney, Omar Bin Alkhattab Mosque in Adelaide, Holland Park Mosque in Brisbane, the Caulfield Hebrew Congregation Synagogue in Melbourne and the Theo Notaras Multicultural Centre in Canberra.

St George's Anglican Church in Paddington and St Mark's Darling Point in Sydney are also open for prayer.

"One of the greatest strengths of our nation is that we come out stronger from every calamity - and we will come much stronger out of this and strengthen our country through our unity and diversity" said Ali Kadri, President of the Holland Park Mosque in Brisbane.

“We're hoping that all our fellow Australians will join us in the prayer for the safety of the people in the cafe. Certainly this action today is not an embrace of peace. It is an act of lunacy as well as criminality."

News of the siege sent shockwaves throughout Sydney but it was felt most acutely in the Muslim community, whose leaders condemned the siege.

“We started praying for the safety of the people in the café,” said Muslim community figure Keysar Trad.

“We're hoping that all our fellow Australians will join us in the prayer for the safety of the people in the cafe.

Certainly this action today is not an embrace of peace. It is an act of lunacy as well as criminality."

Islamic leaders today met with authorities, offering whatever help and information they could.

The Mufti of Australia and National Imams Council said in a statement that they were devastated, and were praying for a peaceful resolution.

"The Grand Mufti and the Australian National Imam Council condemn this criminal act unequivocally and reiterate that such actions denounced in part and in whole in Islam," the statement read. 

"We along (with) the wider Australian society await the results of the investigation about the identity of the perpetrators and their underlying motivations behind this criminal act.”

The Arab Council of Australia says the perpetrator or perpetrators should face the full force of the law.

Jamal Daoud, who's western-Sydney based Social Justice Network has been fighting against radicalisation for the last four years, warned of an impending attack six weeks ago on SBS.

“We started to hear from some community young people that they should take the law into their own hands and retaliate,” Mr Daoud told SBS.

"The Grand Mufti and the Australian National Imam Council condemn this criminal act unequivocally and reiterate that such actions denounced in part and in whole in Islam."

Mr Daoud says radicalisation has only increased in the wake of recent terrorism raids.

“Members of this extremist organisation want to prove that they are not weakened by authorities activities. They are strong, they can strike in the heart of Sydney,” he said.

Earlier today Prime Minister Tony Abbott urged anyone with any knowledge of suspicious activity to call the National Security Hotline.

Anyone with information about the cafe incident should call the police hotline on1800 227 228.

Mr Abbott urged Australians to go about their business.

"Australia is a peaceful, open, and generous society. Nothing should ever change that.

"And that's why I would urge all Australians today to go about their business as usual."

The siege has attracted attention around the world with US President Barack Obama briefed and leaders from New Zealand and Canada expressing concern.

Source SBS

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