The 6th Annual International Inter-religious Abraham Conference, held on the 19th of August 2007 at Sydney University was a clear indication of the need for our community members, religious leaders and academics to strive for a more harmonious and tolerant way of life to promote understanding and peace.
Over 120 people attended the conference organised by the Affinity Intercultural Foundation with partnering organisations Sydney Catholic Archdiocese, Uniting Church NSW Synod, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations and the NSW Community RElations Commission had sponsored the event.
The theme for this years’ conference was, “Our Nation – Can We Grow Together?” with International keynote speaker Associate Professor Burhanettin Tatar from Ondokuz Mayis University in Turkey.
The conference addressed a variety of important issues for multi-cultural societies today and offered guests the unique opportunity of listening to interesting local and international perspectives of multi-faith communities.
Speakers from the three Abrahamic faiths addressed the theme through their own experiences. Associate Professor Burhanettin Tatar spoke about the Muslim perspective and explained the philosophy of growing together. Professor Tatar focused on three main points; Philosophy of City as the Condition of Heterogeneity of Anonymity of a Society, Abrahamic Monotheism as an Infinite Space for Dialogue between One God and Human Individuals and the Dialogical Character of Social Ethics. He stated that “…the mystery of our living together and the possibility of our growing together in peace and harmony reveal themselves not in terms of constructing an overall picture of reality to be applied on a city; or interpreting Abrahamic monotheism and values as a unifying interpretive system… but in terms of providing human individuals the free space for having the freedom and responsibility before God and other human beings. This will help us preserve pluralistic nature of our modern cities as well as our awareness of dialogical character of social ethics”.
Dr Rev David Gill shared the importance of growing together from the Christian perceptive focusing on the benefits of a more tolerant, understanding and religiously educated society.
Rabbi Zalman Kastel talked from the Jewish perspective, giving us his own personal experience of trying to grow together with others.
Lunch followed an afternoon session of workshops where guests were invited to more streamlined sessions with workshop leaders exploring the many ways of growing together as a society, community and on a national and global level.
Workshop A covered the topic ‘How might our common values contribute to building our nation? ’
Workshop A included;
Vic Alhadeff – Jewish speaker
Prof Michael Horsburgh – Christian speaker
Eman Dandan – Muslim speaker
Chairperson was Revd Dr Jonathan Inkpin
Workshop B covered ‘What would you identify as the greatest challenges to growing together today? ‘
Workshop B included;
Rabbi Zalman Kastel – Jewish speaker
Irfan Yusuf – Muslim speaker
Dr Michael Casey – Christian speaker
Chairperson was Mr Osman Softic
Workshop C covered ‘In what sense are we on the cutting edge of achieving a socially cohesive society?’
Workshop C included;
Ms Lynda Ben-Menashe – Jewish speaker
Revd Mary Pearson – Christian speaker
Prof Ali Fuat Bilkan – Muslim speaker
Ms Susi Brieger was chairperson
All workshops had participants from a variety of people from the wider communities. Everyone had a chance to put in his or her inputs, experiences, and thoughts about the topic. From ideas of respect to difference, each workshop tried to answer its given questions. By cooperating with each other, our aims in each workshop was to get to the heart of the problem. So long as the hurdles were recognised, the next step naturally would obviously be to overcome them. Many questions and many interesting ideas were touched upon during the workshops and it was left up to us to go back to our respective Abrahamic communities to implement them.
After the very invigorating workshops, most of us were ‘all talked out’. We had a quick tea/coffee break before we were back in the main lecture hall to hear the summaries of the other workshops and to conclude the conference.
Many positive themes come out of the day and as CEO of Affinity, Mehmet Ozalp, gave his closing remarks on behalf of the Steering Committee, it was obvious that the only way forward for us now is to progress to the next step. It is always a great feeling to be part of the Abraham Conference; to be able to come together regardless of our backgrounds and discuss issues that face us. This can only lead to a positive outcome. It was very much felt after the 6th annual Abraham Conference came to an end, that we need to take what we have learnt from the day, back to our respective Abraham faith communities in order to help ‘Our nation grow together’.