FULL COVERAGE: Bendigo mosque: Emotion fuels debate
CHINESE Association treasurer Anita Jack has said the mosque approved by council last week should be treated no differently to other places of worship.
"We live in a secular society and there seems to be an agenda that we live in a Christian society. It is secular by choice, by the people, and with that we allow things like The Stupa, the Chinese temple, churches and cathedrals to co-exist harmoniously and the mosque should be no different," Ms Jack said.
Ms Jack said the Joss House from the 19th century, the temple from the 20th century and now The Great Stupa under construction showed how a minority religion and culture had been able to exist peacefully in Bendigo for years.
"When our ancestors came here no one understood Chinese beliefs or traditions," she said.
She said the Chinese community had been encouraged to keep its traditions "without people feeling threatened or scared".
She said Bendigo had been a leader in multi-culturalism since the gold rush days.
"We need to keep going with that and we need to embrace this new community the way we have embraced the Karen, the Sudanese, the Chinese and any other race or nationality," she said.
Ms Jack said she had visited mosques overseas, particularly in Malaysia, and said they were places of "absolute serene peace".
"Some of the things that have been said by the public, by that minority, don’t even resonate in my mind because of what I have seen and what I've experienced in my own personal visits to mosques," she said.
She said people from other cultures regularly experienced ignorance from others.
"It has to do with education, people need to be educated," she said.
However, she said the majority of the population were accepting and supportive of different cultures and beliefs.