Friday, 25 November 2016

A Unique Festival of Faiths

Written by Semisi Kailahi

On Sunday 13 November hundreds of Victorians of different faiths attended the Faith Communities Council’s VINC 2016 event at Darebin Arts and Entertainment Centre in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

VINC, short for the Victorian Interfaith Networks Conference, is a unique grass-roots festival of faiths supported by the Uniting Church Synod of Victoria and Tasmania.

“It’s a brilliant opportunity for those of us who work in Interfaith and come from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds to meet each other in a relaxed group situation and network easily,” says Larry Marshall, project manager with the Vic/Tas Synod’s Uniting Through Faiths unit.

VINC 2016 began with a festival of faiths outside the main conference room where attendees got a glimpse of different religions, spiritualties, philosophies and cultures and could mingle with organisations and individuals from faith communities.

Sikh groups helped people try on a turban. Muslim groups shared information about Islamic heritage and contributions to art, science and architecture. Buddhists showed off prayer beads, bowls and bells and Jewish groups shared their Shabbat fare.

April Robinson, Interfaith Consultant for the Vic/Tas Synod found that the “networking opportunity was the most important aspect of the Interfaith Conference”.

April was also pleased to see an interfaith event include much needed diversity. “Often it’s the Abrahamic faiths that are amplified ahead of the Indigenous and atheist.”

The keynote speech was delivered by Rev. Matt Glover, Executive Officer of Spiritual Care Australia and Director of MGA Counselling. He spoke on the theme ‘Faith and Social Inclusion’.

There were also four fascinating workshops around the notions of Compassion & Justice, Multiculturalism, Sexuality & Gender and Bystander Responses to Racism.

Rev. Andy Calder, Manager of Disability Inclusion at the Vic/Tas Synod, organised a stand. He launched a statement encouraging faith communities to “consider their responses to people with disabilities, families and carers, in terms of active participation in worship and social activities”.

Other groups with stands included the Victorian Cooperative on Children’s Services for Ethnic Groups, Victorian Council of Churches Emergencies Ministry, Centre for Culture Ethnicity and Health, Jewish Community Council of Victoria: LGBTI & Jewish, Progressive Atheists Incorporated and Darebin City Council.

Vic/Tas Synod’s Uniting Through Faiths group is currently working on a Resilient Women against Bigotry and Racial Violence project, facilitating Common Ground poetry workshops and organising an I’ll Dine With You interfaith/intercultural dinner in February next year. They are also engaged in promoting peace and reconciliation among members of the Sri Lankan diaspora.


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