By NINO BUCCI, The Age APRIL 26, 2015
The Ethiopian Orthodox community has prayed for victims of an Islamic State massacre during the opening of a centre in Melbourne’s outer west.
The Deer Park centre is set to become the largest in Melbourne, which has a Ethiopian Orthodox population of more than 15,000.
Community leader Haileluel Gebre-selassie said last week’s bloodshed had shocked all Ethiopians, regardless of their religion.
“Ethiopia is a model for harmonious living between Christians and Muslims,” Mr Gebre-selassie said.
“They have lived in a peaceful situation for thousands of years. Ethiopian Muslims strongly condemned this violence too.
“We recognise ISIS’s stance against humanity and that it does not represent any religion, they are just barbaric.”
In a video released by Islamic State last week, militants said Christians were “crusaders” who wanted to kill Muslims. About 15 men were then beheaded on a Libyan beach and another group were shot in the head.
“Muslim blood shed under the hands of your religions is not cheap,” a man, dressed in black and clutching a pistol, says in the video.
“To the nation of the cross: We are now back again.”
Mr Gebre-selassie said there were plans for the centre to expand into a neighbouring vacant block, as the existing building had already proved too small.
The purchase of the vacant land would allow the construction of larger hall, which would complement smaller Ethiopian Orthodox churches in Marybyrnong and Altona.
Ritual services are held every Sunday, and a community hall hosts other activities.
Programs are being run to teach children, most of whom were born in Melbourne and speak English as their first language, about their cultural heritage.
The lessons include singing and language lessons, Mr Gebre-selassie said.
“Within a short period of time we have been flooded by a lot of people,” he said.
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