The Annual General Meeting of Religions for Peace Australia was held on Sunday, 3rd June, in Melbourne.
The Annual General Meeting was conducted at the premises of the Australian Intercultural Society – a Turkish group dedicated to improvement of Community Relations in Australia
A representative of the AIS presented on the works of the AIS. This was appreciated by all present, including the powerpoint presentation.
The Chair, Prof. Des Cahill, then welcomed Professor Greg Barton, of Monash University.
Professor Barton is the Herb Feith Research Professor for the Study of Indonesia in the Faculty of Arts at Monash. He is based in the Politics stream in the School of Political and Social Inquiry. He is acting Director of the Centre for Islam and the Modern World (CIMOW), Deputy UNESCO Chair in Interreligious and Intercultural Relations – Asia Pacific, and is active in the Global Terrorism Research Centre (GTReC). For the past twenty years Greg has been active in inter-faith dialogue initiatives and has a deep commitment to building understanding of Islam and Muslim society. The central axis of his research interests is the way in which religious thought, individual believers and religious communities respond to modernity and to the modern nation state. He also has a strong general interest in comparative international politics.
Prof. Barton gave an keystone address on Islam and the Arab Spring, wherein he spoke of the progress of democracy in the region and the role of religion within this movement.
Professor Barton titled his talk, The Arab Spring, secular liberal democracy and implications for religious harmony. The “Arab Spring” is a post Cold-War thawing of authoritarianism in Middle East and North African nations.
There are five principal implications of the Arab Spring:
- Religion remains important
- Social, economic, plitiical and cultural demographic drivers are paramount
- Democracy is just beginning in this region
- A secular, liberal democracy needs to be negotiated and developed in the context local cultural and religious factors;
- Religious and social harmony will face variegated and unpredictable challenges.
The Chair, Prof. Des Cahill, then presented our guest speaker, with some momentos of the occasion.
The Chair, Prof. Des Cahill, then gave the Annual Report. (You may read the full text of the Annual Report here. )
During the Annual Report, several active officers were invited to speak; Chris Parnell addressed the growth of the website and the prevalence of searches for material by school children on the Website. Dr Anna Halafoff, outgoing Vice President, gave a report on the work of REENA with ACARA, the National Curriculum and Assessment Authority, and the recent decision in NSW to continue Special Religious Education. Nivy Balachandran, who was sponsored by Religions for Peace Australia to attend the recent ASEM Interfaith Meet in Manila and participate in the Youth Dialogues, gave an account of that visit, along with an account of participation by youth in interfaith activities and how interfaith youth are enabled.
The Chair gave a vote of thanks and a presentation to the outgoing auditor, Weston Elvins.
The elections for new officers was then conducted by the outgoing Vice President, Dr Anna Halafoff. Elected were,
- President – Prof. Desmond Cahill
- Vice President – Terry Sussmilch (Tasmania)
- Secretary – Sue Ennis
- Treasurer – Jo Elvins
- Executive Member – Tasmania: Terry Sussmilch
- Executive Member – South Australia – Ann Aisatullin
- Executive Member – New South Wales – Jo Lacey
- Executive Member – Queensland – Sr. Patricia Blundell
- Ordinary Committee Member: Narindepal Singh Balla; Nivy Balachandran, Rev. Helen Summers, Caesar de Mello, Di Hirsch, Joan Daw