THE Bendigo Bank has defended its decision to close a fundraising account designed to finance objections to a multi-million dollar mosque project.
The bank has advised The Concerned Citizens Fund must be closed by April 9.
A written statement from the bank said:
"This was a considered decision by our bank, and we respect everyone’s right to voice their opinions.
"Equally we have a right to ours, and we want to do business with organisations whose values align with our own.
"Our bank values tolerance and inclusiveness, qualities which are an important part of a strong community."
A copy of a letter from the bank is displayed on the Stop the Mosque Facebook page.
"In this case, the bank is of the view that being associated to the Facebook webpage group 'Stop the Mosque' by reference to its bank identification number and account number in inconsistent to the bank's values," the letter states.
Members of the Facebook page did not hold back when it came to voicing their opinions with comments including: "Will be closing our accounts with them today and telling them why" and "Bendigo Bank won't be having any of my hard earned then".
Plans for the $3 million Rowena Street project have been lodged with the City of Greater Bendigo.
Mosque spokesman Heri Febriyanto told the Bendigo Advertiser earlier this year those behind the proposal welcomed all views and said there had been support for the project from other religious leaders.
“We’re living in Australia,” he said.
“I think it’s part of our culture and custom to have respect for everyone.
“Everyone has the right to have their expression, we have a right to do that by law.”
Mr Febriyanto said he had mainly heard from people who supported the development.
“In the community they’re saying the majority of people are supporting the project,” he said.
“People are contacting me happy to support it, mostly from leaders of any religion.”
Bendigo’s Sacred Heart Cathedral Monsignor Frank Marriott called for greater tolerance and harmony among religious groups when the mosque proposal was first announced.
Monsignor Marriott said the challenge facing Bendigo was to bring Christian, Buddhist, Islamic and other traditions together.
Monsignor Marriott suggested the possibly of developing an inter-faith council.
"I welcome the proposal and the ability for them to worship, but I ask the Islamic community to extend the same hospitality," Monsignor Marriott said.
"There are places where we are not free to worship and if we are giving them the freedom to worship, we are entitled to expect the same freedom."