|Testimony of Faith - Hon Marie Ficarra MLC|
This testimony has been provided by Hon Marie Ficarra MLC, Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier of New South Wales. It was written during Advent 2011.
At this time of year we bring out our Nativity Scene, a tradition started by St Francis, patron saint of my parents' homeland Italy. The expressions of the ox, ass and sheep seem to portray in a special way the love of this wonderful saint. All the figures were hand carved from olives of ancient Palestinian lineage by poor Christians who are doing it hard, like so many religious people in the region where Our Saviour lived his earthly life. We reflected on their suffering last Sunday at an ecumenical prayer service commemorating the martyrdom of Egyptian Coptic Christians. Jesus was also in grave danger as a child and the Holy Family fled into exile for over 3 years in Egypt.
As we place the baby in the manger at Christmas we think of how it is a defining feature of our faith, that the One sent to save us arrived as a naked child, in the most humble circumstances. Throughout His life he preached against the worship of money and material reward. In my life as a scientist, a company executive and a politician I have seen many examples of greed and corruption and I thank the Lord that have never been tempted to participate, primarily because I try to follow His teaching and his example. I also think that corruption in politics is a most profoundly antisocial act of pure evil, certainly not a victimless crime as some might pretend.
My life has had many testing moments that involved people once very close to me, people I should have been able to trust. Fortunately, feeling the enduring love of my father and mother and remembering their solid moral guidance, I was able to pass through those challenging times without displaying bitterness or seeking retribution for felt injustices. I know that my parents, who raised me in their arms and in the shelter of our Christian faith, can rest in the peace of Christ with the knowledge of how I have performed. This to me is every bit as important as knowing they would still be proud of what their daughter is achieving in public life.
Alongside my parents, family and godparents, the priests and teachers I encountered were highly influential. Those teachers, many in religious orders, had differing personalities and approaches and, if I sometimes seemed to be modelling my future on the strong, determined and independent women like my own mother, I also cared for and tried to follow the ways of those who had soft natures, like my father's. I did clash with the school leadership when, at the end of year 10, I faced a choice of science-dominated study at a girls high school or further Catholic schooling. I am not entirely sure what made my teachers so keen for me to continue in the latter path. If they thought there was no chance that my faith would fail if I was in a very small minority of Catholic students in Year 11 and beyond, they had nothing to fear. My faith stayed as strong as ever and probably benefitted from adolescent exposure to the diversity of faiths that represents the real world.
Challenges to faith come in many forms and I am often alerted to gratuitous, sarcastic and unwarranted comments in the press or on radio about my religious views, by or on behalf of those I am opposing in political debates and elections. Typically, the comment is a snide reference, by a headline seeking journalist, to my supposed prominence in an imagined political group, the religious right. It can get very petty and nasty, as it did when one self obsessed media commentator chose to read and reproduce in his weekly column the very personal Christmas message sent by my husband and me, by post, to one of our colleagues. Apparently intercepted by political foes, it was passed around by some unethical political operators who probably thought that some readers of a tabloid would get a laugh from the way we in our family express our understanding of the true meaning of Christmas in our greetings. There was a strong temptation to lash back at this flagrant breach of privacy, however, showing outrage at their actions only brings glee to such provocateurs. In this sort of situation, the Christian message to show nothing but love to those who want to harm you is also politically very wise.
But I will not be cowered into silence on more substantial issues by fear of such attacks. Although I am not particularly prone to parading my spiritual sentiments, the public record has documented my opinions on many issues. They are solidly grounded on my substantial scientific training, my broad experience of life and my faith and I don't mind making this obvious when necessary. My faith gives me both the felt need and the courage to speak out against oppression, intolerance and injustice, even if these expressions of opinion might cost me the support of those proponents of expediency and compromise. I will not retreat in the face of any threats to isolate and vilify me because of my faith-based positions. In the words of the hymn we unified Christians sang with such strong conviction last Sunday, here in the love of Christ, I stand.