Respecting the Other’s Religious and Cultural Narrative

August 31, 2015 by J-Wire
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The 2015 Abraham Conference has been held in Sydney and run on the theme was ‘Respecting the Other’s Religious and Cultural Narrative.’

The keynote speaker was Maha Abdo, Executive Officer of the Muslim Women’s Association. Joining her on the panel at Parramatta were Christian panelist  Alice Priest and Jewish panelist Rabbi Gad Krebs.

Two of the Jewish participants have provided reports….

Ruth Pojer:

Ruth Pojer

Ruth Pojer

Last Wednesday night, I had the privilege of attending my first interfaith dinner. It was a wonderful event, interesting, stimulating, and uplifting. The evening started by being seated with colour coded serviettes (blue for Jews, green for Muslims, red for Christians) and the seating was so that a person of each religion was seated between the other two.

The proceedings started with an inspiring talk given by Maha Abdo and then the rest of the panel consisting of a Christian and a Jew discussed how we could all live in harmony together. Then for the next hour we discussed the issues amongst the table with a facilitator recording the comments of the participants on the table. The conversation was lively and engaging and of course everyone there agreed that mutual respect was the way forward. Then it was back to the learned panel for a summation of the comments from the tables.

The evening was a great success because we all heard and met new people from different backgrounds and beliefs and the take home message was: We are really all the same – human beings with different beliefs and ideas coexisting in a complex world.

Debbie Scholem:

Debbie Scholem

Debbie Scholem

Last week I attended the Abraham Conference 2015 in Parramatta. I had been to one other function some years ago called the Women’s Interfaith Dinner where the guest speaker was Ronni Kahn (the founder of Oz Harvest). At Parramatta, there was a panel representative of each of the three Abrahamic religions. I was looking forward to a night of listening, learning, meeting people and a nice meal.

I was warmly greeted and then I went looking for a place to sit down at one of the large tables. I had been told that the tables seated ten people and to mix everyone they had laid three red (Christian), three green (Muslim) and three blue (Jewish) places on each table. This was an excellent way of making sure we all mingled. At my table sat a married Muslim couple, a random Muslim man, a Salvation Army man, a sister from a Catholic organisation and the table moderator – another Jew. After hearing an inspiring talk by Maha Abdo about the importance of respecting our differences and appreciating what we have in common, we were asked to discuss some topics at our tables.


The panel

The first was about ‘our own experiences of walking in another’s shoes’ and how that has shaped our understanding of ‘the other’. I didn’t understand why they set this topic. Surely we were there because we hadn’t had a chance to walk in other’s shoes. So instead I just talked a little about myself. Others told their stories. The Catholic nun, from the country, mentioned that she had never met a Jew until the age of fifteen.

The second discussion topic was how do we feel ‘our communities can help bridge separation between cultural and religious communities’. I was unable to come up with any new or inspiring suggestions for the Jewish community so instead I told the table about our upcoming High Holy Days and then, after explaining a little about the ritual of building a sukka, I invited them to come for lunch in my family’s sukka on the October long weekend. I didn’t get any takers.

Following these discussions the table moderators, one by one, tried to summarise what their table had come up with. To be honest this was extremely repetitive and the gist was that ‘we must keep doing what everyone in the room is doing – like coming to functions such as these’.

Driving home I thought about the night and whether the Abraham Conference was having any impact on prejudices or negative attitudes between religions. Some of their component organisations run educational sessions for schools, and have lecture series, and other activities. That’s impressive and I feel it is well worth supporting.

The Abraham Conference is a multi-faith gathering of Jews, Muslims and Christians. It was established ten years ago.



One Response to “Respecting the Other’s Religious and Cultural Narrative”
  1. Rabbi Chaim Ingram says:

    Rather than anodyne functions like these, there is a real need for committed members of the momnotheistic faiths to get together to develop strategies to combat the common adversary which is militant secularism and moral relativism in today’s scoiety

    Rabbi Chaim Ingram

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