April 2008

Religions for Peace Australia

30th April, 2008

Dear Members,

Greetings! Since my last communication with you, we have very much become an electronic network. I hope that you are getting all the emails that our hard-working secretary, Jo Elvins, has been forwarding to you, particularly those from our New York headquarters. They reflect the scope of WCRP’s work and the various statements made by religious leaders in response to global and local issues. If you are not receiving these emails, please let Jo know.

Since mid-2007, our main work has been preparing for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Members of our executive have been very, very much involved, and many of you right around Australia have been consulted as to the theme and the leading topics. From this consultation process, three main ideas emerged in relation to global warming/climate change, the global neighbourhood and the issues to be addressed and, thirdly, diversity and its ramifications. As a consequence, after a long recent teleconference between Australia and the United States, the following theme was agreed upon:

Make a World of Difference,
Hearing each other, Healing the earth.

As a consequence, the following leading ideas or sub-themes have emerged from the consultative process:

  1. Healing the Earth with Care and Concern
  2. Reconciling with the Indigenous Peoples in Trust and Treaty
  3. Sharing Wisdom in the Search for Inner Peace
  4. Overcoming Poverty in a Patriarchal World
  5. Creating Social Cohesion in Village and City
  6. Securing Food and Water for All Peoples
  7. Building Peace in the Pursuit of Justice and Development

As well, topic clusters have emerged though these are presently ideas and they will be added to or subtracted over the next twelve months 1. Religious Education for a Multi-religious World 2. Multi-faith Chaplaincies in Multicultural Societies 3. Religion, Spirituality and Sport 4. Women, Religion and Spirituality 5. The Interface between Science and Religion 6. Religious Leadership in a Changing World 7. Religion and Spirituality: the Youth Perspective 8. The Internet and the Mobile: Religious and Moral Perspectives 9.Confronting HIV/AIDS Across the World 10. Religious Arts, Architecture and the Media in a Pluralist World 11. Refugees and Migrants in a Mobile World and 12. Tourism and Pilgrimage: an Interfaith Perspective.

During the week of the Parliament, there will be 510 separate sessions of 90 minutes each (what a feast!). Australia has been allocated one third of these sessions. I want to suggest very strongly that we all begin thinking about sessions that we can present. It could be about our own faith tradition or some aspect of it; it could be about various interfaith initiatives that we have sponsored or participated in; it could be about the theme or a leading topic or a topic cluster. Soon we will be circulating the call for proposals which will have to be submitted by the end of this year. We expect to receive over 2000 proposals from across the world. So please start thinking! The Parliament of the World’s Religions, the world’s largest interfaith gathering, will be held on December 3- 9th, 2009 at the new Melbourne Convention Centre which is being built at this moment and will be completed by about this time next year. The Parliament will be the first big event to be held in the new Centre. I want you to begin registering for the Parliament on the following website: (www.parliamentofreligions.org)

Yes, it is quite expensive and we will all have to begin saving up now. There are the usual discounts. But compared with academic and professional conferences, it is quite cheap. It is value for money. Any funds left over after the parliament will be used to fund interfaith activities from 2010 onwards. To mount such an event as the Parliament requires much money. For example, to hire the new convention centre for a week will cost about $1 million but if we did not have this new centre, we would not have won the bid to host it. Our new centre has an auditorium which will hold 5,000 people whereas presently the biggest auditorium in Melbourne holds only 1,500. It will be one of the biggest auditoriums in the world.

The Parliament will be a unique event, and will never again be held in Melbourne during our lifetimes.

Interfaith activities continue to grow in number and size across Australia, and this has been very gratifying to see. Fr. Bill Birt, the New South Wales convenor, is now living in Melbourne, and his place has been taken by Sister Josapha Lessgerner. Congratulations to Sister Josapha. She was able to attend our last executive meeting and reported on the NSW activities which include the 2 – 3 hour gatherings of faith leaders at the NSW Parliament House. The NSW executive group meets once a month at Quaker House.

Another issue that has been recurring throughout the last two years has pertained to the Sikh community. There have been a series of incidents in both Australia and New Zealand beginning with the refusal of the Commonwealth Games authorities to allow the Sikh chaplain into the Games village. A young Sikh was thrown off a Qantas jet in NZ and a Christian religious school would not accept a Sikh student unless he took off his turban. The issue is usually the wearing of the kirpan. As WCRP members, we need to keep monitoring this issue and supporting our Sikh friends.

Please keep up the good work! Thanks to all of you who do WCRP work around the country, especially the executive committee and the convenors in the different States.

With my cordial regards,

Yours Sincerely,

Desmond P. Cahill, (Prof.),
Chair, Religions for Peace Australia.