On the Saturday 15 June 2019, women from all faiths gathered to attend the inaugural Women of Faith – Contribution & Belonging event at Whittlesea Council.
The event was co-hosted by Whittlesea Interfaith Network and Al Siraat College and proudly supported by Victorian Multicultural Commission and the City of Whittlesea.
The MC for this event was senior SRC student from Al Siraat College, Hafsa Sarwar. A moving opening prayer was made by Hifz student Mariam Siddiqui followed by the welcoming speech by councilor and former Mayor Kris Pavlidis.
Introductory speeches were also made by special guests MP Bronwyn Halfpenny and MP Lily D’Ambrosio as well as president of Whittlesea Interfaith Network, Nathan Elijah. Mr Elijah’s speech explained, “Our network is made up of people from all faiths and no faith who approach each other with respect and friendship.”
The afternoon was studded with stories and reflections of community contributions and sacrifices made by countless women from all faiths written in the pages of history to current times.
Guest speakers included Dr. Rachel Davies from Australian Catholic University, Dr. Zuleyha Keskin from Islamic Sciences & Research Academy, Buddhist nun Venerable Chi Kwang Sunim, Baha’i Speaker Azita Sobhani and Sikh community leader Gurinder Kaur.
Keynote speaker Dr Davies shared some inspiring insights from her research on Mother Theresa. She ended with the powerful message that “Faith reminds us that doing good involves deep love and friendship. Deep experiences of spiritual belonging and a genuine commitment to learn from others and to celebrate others can help us, like Mother Theresa, to serve humanity with greater love, compassion and creativity.”
Dr Zuleyha Keskin gave a powerful speech on the importance of interfaith dialogue and how it is incumbent upon all Muslims to engage in Interfaith dialogue.
Dr Keskin shared insights from her masters’ thesis on Interfaith Dialogue from an Islamic perspective and ended her speech with a call to action stating, “If we really want to grow as a community we need to expose ourselves to platforms where there’s greater diversity and see it as an enriching experience. When we’re able to program our perception of diversity as a beautiful blessing we’re able to apply that acceptance and respect to any platform where there’s a diversity of cultures or opinions.”
Student presentations were made by Al Siraat College SRC students supported by SRC Coordinator Ms Noori Ahmad.
In finalising the formal presentations a wonderful moving video presentation was shared of the late Hannah Jacobs, a Jewish woman who supported countless migrant families settle into Australia in the early 80s.
The overall feedback was that there is clearly a demand for more platforms for women of faith to network and collaborate, in friendship and respect, on initiatives that serve their community.