Dialogue weathers the COVID storm

May 19, 2020 by Community newsdesk
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Physical distance proved no obstacle to the constructive and lively meeting of the Australian National Dialogue of Christians, Muslims & Jews, which took place yesterday.

Meeting on Zoom

Having met previously in synagogues, mosques, churches, museums, schools and a variety of other venues, the first online meeting was “conducted with the same passion for building a better Australia, together” meeting Chair Jeremy Jones said.

“In the past, we have been together for celebrations of Chanukah, Iftar dinners, Succot, Eid festivities and Christmas services, and this meeting was originally scheduled for a meal and conversation at the end of a Ramadan Fasting day.

But the fact we physically apart did not stop us learning about Ramadan from our Muslim colleagues while also having the opportunity to consider all issues where representatives of the roof bodies of Christian, Muslim and Jewish Australians can most constructively contribute” Jeremy Jones added.

The Australian Dialogue of Christians, Muslims & Jews is a collaboration between the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the National Council of Churches in Australia and Muslims Australia Inc. (The Australian Federation of Islamic  Councils). This was the 56th meeting.

Jeremy Jones, Director of International and of Community Affairs of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, an Honorary Life Member and former President of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, Sheikh Amin Hady on behalf of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, and Elizabeth Stone, newly appointed General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in Australia, are the Dialogue’s Co-Chairs.

In this, the  56th,  meeting, Sheikh Amin Hady opened the presentations on Ramadan with Sheikh Fawaz Kamaz , Zubeda Raihman and Anita Rochaniasih sharing reflections on the unique circumstances of marking the month of fasting, prayer and family gatherings in the time of Covid-19.

This led to a thoughtful session engaging all participants in the Dialogue on challenges faced by various religions when gatherings are against the public interest.

There was also discussion, led by Bishop Phillip Huggins, the President of the National Council of Churches in Australia, on how religion has adapted and may be forced to continue to adapt to changed social conditions, after which the Dialogue considered the role of religious leaders in combatting conspiracy theories, misinformation and challenges to communal harmony.

“One advantage of conducting the Dialogue online was that most participants felt comfortable extending the discussion well past the designated time for its conclusion, meaning the sharing of reflections, thoughts and ideas could continue,” Jeremy Jones said.

“With close to an even split between men and women, a wide range of ages and experiences, geographic diversity and affiliations within as well as between the delegations taking part in the Dialogue, all participants have provided positive feedback on their experiences in the zoom conference.

However, most of us are looking forward to the time where we can once again enjoy each other’s company, around the same table” Jeremy Jones concluded.

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