Mini-Parliament of the Worlds Religions
As part of the twelve week tertiary level course on Interreligious Dialogue being taught by Fr. Patrick McInerney at the Catholic Institute of Sydney there was a Mini-Parliament of the Worlds Religions held on August 25. About 40 people heard representatives from eight different religions/spiritualities – Aboriginal, Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jew, Muslim and Sikh – who had been invited to form a panel. Each was first invited to say briefly something about their own religion and then to present interreligious dialogue from his or her own religion’s perspective. Fr. Patrick then engaged them in a question and answer dialogue and finally there was an open forum with the audience.
A Catholic Aboriginal woman, Mrs. Elsie Heiss, opened us to an appreciation of the deep connections that the Spirit has with the land and the Creation story for thousands of years in this country. Some speakers spoke of their own faith journey and of the importance of moving beyond tolerance of other religions toward developing a much deeper human understanding if there is going to be any real harmony. For some people interfaith dialogue is a “problem” and there are times that risks need to be taken in dialogue thus an important element is first the developing bonds of trust between participants in the dialogue. Some of the speakers spoke with hope that from their own experiences interreligious dialogue brings out the best of humanity especially when it leads to good actions together such as co-operation in projects to help the poor and needy. Speakers acknowledged that there are obvious differences in religions which each participant has to acknowledge but respecting and even affirming differences can lead to strength in dialogue and can help one re-examines own’s own faith.
The evening concluded with refreshments and more casual conversation. The formal and social gathering was a rich experience of camaraderie across religious diversity and in itself was a model of interreligious dialogue. Many thanks to the Catholic Institute and its Student Association and the Columban Mission Institute for co-hosting this important event.
Fr Brian Vale works at the Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations at the Columban Mission Institute, Sydney NSW