The devastating bushfires in the state of Victoria between Sunday 7 February and Tuesday 17 February 2009, caused Australia's highest ever loss of life from bushfires, killing at least 210 people, injuring over 500 more and destroying thousands of homes. Many towns north-east of the state capital, Melbourne, have been badly damaged or almost completely destroyed, leaving an estimated 7,500 people homeless. On Sunday 22 February 2009, designated as The National Memorial Day for Bushfire Victims the Prime Minister of Australia, The Rt. Hon. Kevin Rudd MP, described the bushfires as an "appalling tragedy for Victoria," saying "Hell and all its fury has visited the good people of Victoria in the last 24 hours."
In the aftermath of this devastating calamity, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, Melbourne,
held Special Prayer Assemblies at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Centre in Melbourne,
Australia, on Sunday 15 February and 22 February 2009.
The assemblies gathered people from all faiths and local communities to join in prayer for all those who died, were injured or suffered loss in the deadly bushfires, and for peace and normalcy to be restored as soon as possible. Such prayers are able to offer comfort and support in a lasting and meaningful way.
In remembrance of each of the innocent lives lost in Victorian Bushfire calamity, candles were lit along the stage of the Prayer Hall by the children of BAPS Mandir in Melbourne. Everyone’s thoughts and prayers were especially with the families of the deceased.
The evening began with the traditional dhun and prayer that was sung by all those gathered as an invocation to the Divine. This was followed by a recital of ancient Vedic verses, and the Shanti-Path by youth and children of BAPS Melbourne.The Mayor of Whittlesee Council, Cllr Mary Lalios had sent her message of appreciation and best wishes to BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, Melbourne, for organizing the occasion, “Thank you to your community, the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Sanstha, for having us in your thoughts at this time.” Messages of appreciation were also conveyed by other members of Whittlesee Council. A message was also sent by the opposition Liberal Party leader, Peter Costelo MP, State of Victoria.
The message of Pramukh Swami Maharaj who offered prayers for all those who have suffered from the tragedy in Victoria, adding: “We pray to Bhagwan Swaminarayan and to all the deities that the fires are soon controlled. May peace prevail all around the state. We offer our condolences to the victims and their families for the tragic loss they have suffered. May people find strength and courage to face this calamity and restore their normal routine at the earliest.”
The assembly concluded fittingly with two minutes of silence and the arti ceremony.