Friday, 12 May 2017

Road to Interfaith

Uniting Church members have a role to play in combating religious and cultural division in the wider community.

April Robinson, Interfaith Network and Research Officer for the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, shared this message when she spoke at St Stephen’s Wodonga Uniting Church on the border of Victoria and NSW recently.

Rev. Denise Naish invited April to speak to the congregation as members explore ways to build interfaith relations.

April spoke about the need for Christians to step beyond their own communities to build relationships with people of other faiths.

“In my work I’ve noticed that Christians, Muslims and people of other faiths are now more active than ever in creating new and better ways to build relations,” April said.

“More and more people are realising that the consequences of the growing division can be dire and are working to counteract that.”

April shared some of the work she is doing to build bridges with other faiths and to help correct some of the inaccurate representations of Islam portrayed in the media and by politicians.

One of these projects is the ‘Ask a Muslim’ forum which involves a Muslim being invited to attend an informal Q&A discussion allowing church members to respectfully ask questions to a Muslim face-to-face.

VicTas Moderator Rev. Sharon Hollis and past President Rev. Alistair Macrae attended a pilot forum. Several congregations are planning to host an “Ask a Muslim” forum in the coming months.

April is leading another project “Resilient Women” which provides support to Muslim women who have experienced violence in public spaces by documenting their stories and hosting community workshops.

Semisi Kailahi also spoke about the interfaith work of the Assembly.

Semisi spoke about drawing lessons for interfaith engagement from the Biblical story of the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35).

“We are often like the two men with wavering belief, navigating through the mysteries of our faith,” said Semisi.

“We must ask the questions that trouble us. We are not meant to have the answers – because that is what faith is all about. Of course, we also question our faith with respect and we do the same when we ask questions about other faiths. Like the two men, we are also called to show hospitality to neighbours and strangers we meet along the way – Christian or not.”


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