We spend five minutes with the Rev. Marie Wilson. Marie is the Western Australian Representative to the National Working Group on Relations with Other Faiths.
I became interested in interfaith work when I was in High School in Victoria and our school was on the same block of land as a Jewish college. We also visited the Synagogue for a tour each year with our Bible Class and were received with great hospitality (cream puffs remain in my memory). A little later a Rabbi came and spoke at our evening service at church (a Presbyterian church). Since then I have been aware of other religions – I have a very good friend who is a Hindu, and have spent some short times in places where the call to prayer for the Muslim people reminds us all of the need to pray.
What motivates you to continue fostering interfaith relationship?
I am motivated to keep going because having friendships and mixing with people from other faiths is incredibly enriching. I get upset at some of the prejudice in the community; the amount of fear is remarkable from people who have probably never stopped to talk to someone wearing a head scarf, for example.
Have you attended an interfaith event in the last month?
I have just had nearly a month in China and was fascinated at the number of Buddhist temples alive and well. We visited a large centre. The Big Buddha looks over the city from a hill, and I felt it was a bit like a European cathedral. There was a multimedia presentation of the life of one of the Buddha’s disciples (I thought originally it was of the Buddha himself). This is all done by the government. When we visited another temple, the 2 and a half year old with us wanted to go and perform the ritual in front of the statue, which she did with grace and speed. This was remarkable to be as her parents profess no religion! This was not quite interfaith but an interesting time in a secular country.
What do you think are the challenges of your interfaith work in the coming 12 months?
I think the challenges today are to get rid of prejudice – particularly in the media. Some positive stories would be good. Maybe we need to write more letters to the editor when things get nasty. Getting people interested in dialogue needs to be done – perhaps it is not the interest so much as organizing opportunities. The Council of Christians and Jews in WA have a good program each year which often attracts a large number of church people and Jews.
Do you have a recommendation for someone wanting to get involved in interfaith relations / dialogue?
For someone interested in dialogue perhaps starting with a visit to a centre of a different faith – then talking to people who might be there. Look out for opportunities in the Relations with Other Faiths newsletter.