Affinity Intercultural Foundation together with Macquarie University hosted a one-day interfaith symposium on Wednesday 15 June 2022 at the university campus on the topic ‘Faith, Social Cohesion and Community Resilience’.

The symposium provided a high-level forum for leaders from diverse backgrounds and faiths to come together and share their experiences and the lessons learned over recent years.

Religion is one of the most powerful forces in human culture.  For millions around the world, their faith is a primary source of personal, social and even political identity.

New South Wales in particular is one of the most religiously diverse places on earth. Despite the challenges posed to our social cohesion by the global pandemic, we remain a highly successful and resilient society, with much to be proud of and to teach the wider world.

During his welcome address, Mr Ahmet Polat, Executive Director of Affinity Macquarie University for their collaboration as well as the NSW Government for supporting this symposium.

“We are all from Adam, and Adam was created from dust. So we are all from the same clay. Regardless of how believers of different religions follow their faith in their daily lives, all religions promote life-sustaining values, such as peace, love, tolerance, forgiveness, compassion, human rights and justice,” Mr Polat said.

He further added, “Humanity has three common enemies. These three enemies – ignorance, poverty and disunity – are shared between religious, racial and national ties. Therefore, various groups of people must come together and be able to form common causes to fight them.”

“Thank you to each and every one of our distinguished moderators and esteemed panellists, some of whom have joined us from around the world. We are proud to host exemplary thought leaders on this platform. Unfortunately, Uncle Zia Ahmad and Cousin Dr Rattan Virk will not be with us today. I send them my deepest condolences and wish them comfort and peace as they have sadly lost a very dear family member this week,” Mr Polat concluded.

The Symposium commenced with a Keynote session, with speakers joining virtually from the US, India as well as NSW.

The audience heard from Professor Dr John Esposito, Professor of Religion, International Affairs, and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, Tushar Gandhi, great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi & Maha Krayem Abdo OAM, CEO of Muslim Women Australia.

The symposium Hosted 35 national speakers over a series of seven panel sessions. Panel speakers varied from academics, faith leaders, youth members, and moderators including various distinguished media members and academics.

The audience was enlightened to hear from exemplary thought leaders on various topics that included:

  • Definitions and Intersections: The power of faith in building social cohesion
  • How is Covid-19 being used by extremists within faith groups and what are the social impacts of Covid-19 and misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories?
  • How can faith communities respond when symbols of faith are appropriated by hate groups?
  • How can religious actors build bridges across communities impacted by recent crises?
  • Interreligious and cultural dialogue approaches and solution examples in solving these problems
  • Youth Leadership Perspectives on Extremism & Belonging
  • Empowering religious leaders & communities: What is the role of faith in building social cohesion?

The one-day interfaith symposium aimed to make a valuable contribution to social cohesion by highlighting and strengthening the positive role of faith traditions and cultures as an integral element of countering violent extremism efforts.

Furthermore, to promote grassroots-level community dialogue to establish mutual understanding, respect, trust, and cooperation in the educational process of interfaith dialogue.

This symposium brought people of different faith traditions, and cultures, together to establish good relations and address common challenges while focusing on peaceful coexistence and interfaith dialogue in society.

An underlying theme of the symposium was regardless of how believers of different religions follow their faith in their daily lives, all religions promote life-sustaining values, such as peace, love, tolerance, forgiveness, compassion, human rights and justice.

Event booklet with program and bio of speakers and panelists.

Synopsis of Talks