Governor’s Prayer Breakfast 2001 – Keynote Address
Friday 20 November 2001
by His Excellency Lieutenant General John Sanderson, AC
Governor of Western Australia
It is a great joy to be with you at this Governor’s Prayer Breakfast. It is now a well established annual event, one of the first events I participated in after assuming the role of Governor some 14 months ago.
As I have travelled the State over that time I have met many people who have told me that they have attended one of these occasions. All of them have been excited to be a part of this special event, and I guess that is why it is growing in attendance each year. People here come from many regions of our great State, all walks of life, and many Christian groups. We are a truly ecumenical gathering, drawn here by the opportunity to worship together with leaders of our community.
The vision statement for the Breakfast says that the purpose is to “bring together community leaders in fellowship and unity to acknowledge God’s values and call on his name – that God may hear us and heal our land”. Well we have all the ingredients for that purpose here, and so let me welcome you all, and express my wish that you find the occasion both inspirational and rewarding. There is certainly much that has happened since we met here last year to draw us towards God, to seek his guidance, and to ask for his blessing. The world has changed dramatically, while we have celebrated the first century of our birth as a federated nation in 1901.
Last year I spoke of the days of the Cold War when the Soviet Union was described by one American President as the Evil Empire. In observing that the Evil Empire was long gone, I stated that we were now faced with a whole new set of geo-strategic problems in a global flux that required us to find new ways of dealing with an incredible array of threats and opportunities.
Well here we are, and it is only just the beginning. Osama Bin Laden has invoked the threat of a holy war by drawing the whole world towards Islam through an act of terrorism of such brutality that it has left us all horrified at man’s inhumanity to man. And this has been done with the technology that we have all become so proud of in the heart of global commercialism.
To me there is a biblical dimension to this. Millions of people on the move in the dust and destruction of harsh places where there is no food or comfort. Hardened and desperate warriors, confident that God is on their side, prepared to fight to the death.
We have to take them seriously and, in doing so, we have to question our values, what we stand for, how this has come about and where we want to be at the end of it.
This State of ours is a wonderful place. Over the last 12 months Lorraine and I have travelled the length and breadth of it, meeting thousands of people and hearing hundreds of stories of success and failure. We have seen the creativity of those who have endured in the wilderness, and heard the hopes and dreams of those who strive to make a better life for their children. Everywhere I have been I have preached the purpose of national unity, emphasising our great good fortune at being that unique and precious thing – a nation that is also a continent.
Remembering that we have come from many lands to share this place with the traditional owners, the success of our great multicultural experiment is everywhere to be seen. And yet there are those who fear it. In my view we have benefited mightily from it, and have nothing to fear provided we are drawn together by a strong set of shared values. The question is, what will be the source of those shared values, and how will we give expression to them?
Without such a source we will be weak and equivocating, losing our way in the whirlpool of great change that is on us. Perhaps this explains in part why this nation has such a high rate of marriage breakdown and youth suicide in the midst of its relative prosperity. How sad it is to think that so many young people among us are so alienated and lonely as to be drawn to self harm that often terminates their life.
I have spoken to many groups of leaders, both young and mature, over the past year on the subject of leadership and change. How do you cope in a world that is changing at such a rate that your planning horizons are down to near zero, and there is no certainty? Imagine the despair if you will of sentient beings that think of themselves as accidents and little better than the beasts of the field, who have no faith and hope for the future, and are confused by a world that seems to place little value on them. Should we be surprised if the suicide rate increases in these circumstances?
Well, there is one very different way you can establish certainty in your life, and that is the one in which you value yourself and your neighbours as being created in the image of God. This is the way where we all understood that all human are creative beings, and special in their own way, and more to the point, God listens to them? I think it is very clear that you are never alone if you have an alliance with God. How much better things would be if those young people who contemplated taking their lives could share these things that we know to be true?
If you didn’t believe that you probably would not be here today. Why come to a prayer breakfast if you don’t share that faith? Perhaps some of us want it to be so, but are uncertain enough about this reality to need the constant reinforcement of those who share our beliefs and desires. That is a good enough reason to be here, and it is what the fellowship of this breakfast is all about.
We need to share a vision of what we want our country and our State to be, and we need to draw inspiration in this from the example and message of our Lord Jesus Christ, as well as those who, through faith, over the last century, made our country what it is today.
Colin Stringer has joined us today to share his vision and his faith with us. He has a very special view of Australia and its place in God’s future for the Earth. I know you will be inspired by what he has to say. Before that however, we will join in prayers for our land and its people.
Thank you ladies and gentlemen.