Melbourne: An Australian bishop has urged parishioners at one of Melbourne`s most famous churches to listen to the concerns of the Indian community, whom he described as "oppressed in this land", a media report said on Monday.
Bishop of the northern and western regions, Philip Huggins, led prayers at St Paul`s Cathedral on Sunday, in which he asked for forgiveness for "our prejudice and indifference" to people from different countries.
"Forgive us for our arrogance in closing our eyes to other people`s cultures," he said. "Forgive us for not honouring the culture of others, and thus taking away their self-respect . . . forgive us for not listening to the griefs of all who are oppressed in this land, especially for Indians who are feeling vulnerable."
The service - titled prayers for peace and the welfare of all Indians in Australia - is bound to add to the continuing debate about whether there is a problem with violence against Indians and racism in the community, the online edition of The Australian newspaper reported.
Victorian Premier John Brumby last week hit back at comments made by former Australian Defence Force chief Peter Cosgrove that it would be "easy to conclude" that some attacks against Indian students were racially motivated.
Brumby described the speech as factually wrong, but Victorian Police Commissioner Simon Overland has admitted police have known for two years that Indian students have been disproportionately targeted.
Tensions between India and Australia have been increasing since the stabbing murder of 21-year-old accounting graduate Nitin Garg earlier this month in Melbourne`s western suburbs.
The Indian government has since put out a travel advisory for its students coming to Australia to study, and Victorian authorities have been criticised by the Indian press for not attributing Garg`s death to racial motives.
Anglican Archbishop Philip Freier told the service on Sunday in his address that the public had to learn to have more empathy for members of the Indian community, especially those who were grieving.
"I think the present situation of the anxiety of people of Indian descent, of people who have come here as students or come here in recent years, is something that challenges Australians who have been here longer," he said.
"I think we need a leap of empathy to understand what it feels like for people in India, for parents, for family members . . . who are anxious for the welfare of their family member in our country."
Freier said Australia needed to express to India that Australians were committed to a society that was free of violence, inclusive and where everyone did "love their neighbour".