The Jewish Christian Muslim Association of Australia (JCMA) hosted its first overnight two day Winter Conference from Sunday 31 July to Monday 1 August at  the Don Bosco Retreat Centre in Lysterfield Victoria.

The overall topic of the conference was “Let’s Talk: The Importance of Interfaith Dialogue”. Where a directly asked the question was “Why do we do interreligious dialogue – and what are the rewards and challenges?”.

The conference brought together thirty members of the three Abrahamic faiths communities,  including 8 Muslims and 10 Jews, from various denominations and ethnicities, leaders and lay people, old and young living together for a few days.

P13InterfaithDSC00797

The intimate group size allowed attendees to get to know each other, with many opportunities for personal communication and interaction during breaks as well as eating times.

Prior to the conference, participants had been asked to prepare either a presentation or a talk for the conference, giving them the chance to share their knowledge and experience with the other attendants.

After each presentation,  the members of the three faith communities would split up into smaller faith discussion groups to reflect and share their thoughts with one another.
P13InterfaithDSC00838

After sunset, the participants observed both the Muslim and Jewish evening prayers before dinner time.

It was very fortunate to have some members of the joined interfaith “Journey to Jerusalem” present at the conference who gave a summary both in words and pictures of their shared experiences during their trip to the Holy Land.

The second day of the Conference started with the observance of the Catholic morning prayer, followed by real “Life Experiences and Faith Journeys”, enabling the attendees in the audience to hear from three conference participants about what brought them to the place they are now in terms of their faith journey, and, more specifically, into interfaith dialogue in JCMA.

P13InterfaithDSC00787

It was important to not only hear about this from a theoretical point of view, but also to touch ground with some real life experiences and stories.

Charles Caleb Colton rightly said: “We hate some people because we do not know them; and will not know them because we hate them.”

While the conference was attended by just 30 people, not issuing any statements or changing the direction of world history, at least they met, talked issues through together and got to know one another, connecting both as people of faith as well as human beings. That is a start.

It is being part of the solution rather than part of the problem.