On May 2, 2006, committee members of the Assyrian Church Youth Association, St Peter and Paul Core Group and Parish Committee had the pleasure of attending dinner with The Hon. David Clarke at NSW Parliament House. The Assyrian Australian Association’s Community Youth Worker, Mr. Ashur Isaac, was also invited to the event that was organized by Mr. Zaya Toma, Federal Secretary of the Young Liberal Movement of Australia.
Mr. Clarke welcomed Rev. Fr. Genard Lazar at 7 pm and the group was given a central location in the large dinning hall. Political colleagues of Mr. Clarke, including The Hon. Peter Debnam MLA, Leader of the NSW Opposition, visited our table and were warmly introduced to our delegation. The dinning room was very busy as parliament was still in session and would continue late into the night. Mr. Clarke mentioned that at certain times during the year, ministers would work past 1 am in order to debate and pass important legislation.
After dinner, Mr. Clarke took the group on a tour of Parliament House, highlighting historic items of political and cultural significance. Busts of former premiers and prominent persons, along with paintings, furniture and other adornments conveyed the rich history of the oldest parliament house in Australia.
Mr. Clarke then took the group to the Lower and Upper Houses. The Lower house was in session and the Church group heard speeches from two members of parliament on improvements to childcare and later, on the entertainment industry and its growth. The group was pleasantly surprised when Madam Acting-Speaker Ms Marie Andrews recognized our attendance by saying “Order! Order! Before I call on the next member to speak, I extend a warm welcome to members of the Assyrian Church of the East, who are present in the public gallery as guests of the honourable member for Wagga Wagga.” Although the Upper House was closed, Mr. Clarke organized for security to open its doors for our group. We had the opportunity to sit in the members’ seats as Mr. Clarke explained the various roles of the ministers and how parliament serves the public. One gained a sense of the challenges of the political process and the level of commitment and intellect that helps to govern our country.
Later in the night, our group was taken to the members’ offices, where they worked at parliament while away from their offices in their constituencies. Although modest in size, our entire group was able to fit into Mr. Clarke’s office. He spoke about the various items on his walls that had a special meaning to him; awards and gifts from communities, which captured unique aspects of their cultures. At this point Rev. Genard Lazar presented Mr. Clarke with an elegantly made gift of our Lord’s prayer in English, Assyrian and phonetic Assyrian, as well as a copy of the Assyrian Church liturgy handbook and a New Testament in the Assyrian language. Mr. Clarke was touched by these gifts and said “…I’m so pleased that I came into contact with your community, because I think that you have been through a lot and that you need friends. We want to try to get as many friends for you as we can… to have practiced the faith you have for 2,000 years, and you are still there, well, God is really looking after you…”
Our group also had the opportunity to meet up with the Hon. Charley Lynn who spoke about his treks along the Kokoda trail, which he organizes three times during the year. Mr. Lynn showed a strong passion to instill in the youth of today an appreciation of the sacrifice our Australian soldiers made in WWII to help keep Australia safe. Mr. Lynn also spoke highly of Mr. Gaby Kiwarkis and their work to recognize the contribution of the Assyrian Levies.
Both The Hon. David Clarke MLC and The Hon. Charley Lynn MLC showed their friendship with the Assyrians through their knowledge of our people and the links they have formed with our community. Our Assyrian Church group was very appreciative of the generous time they gave us and their strong desire to support our community.
A special “thank you” to Mr. Zaya Toma who made the evening possible. The 18 Church members who play an important role in leading spiritual and social activities for Assyrian youth were greatly encouraged and praised our Lord and God Jesus Christ for the precious freedom afforded to us in this blessed country of Australia.
Article courtesy of the Assyrian Church of the East (Australian and New Zealand Diocese: assyrianchurch.com.au)
Mr. Zaya Toma, Federal Secretary of the Young Liberal Movement of Australia, can be contacted by email at: email@example.com