Interfaith forums bring community together

Bringing together people of faith is something the diocese does each and every day through its worship, community outreach and education services.

Throughout this year, the diocese is extending this by hosting and participating in a number of interfaith forums throughout the region.  Offered to the people of the region as an open invitation for education and enlightenment, the forums provide a unique opportunity for the community to come together in a shared learning environment.

Encompassing Jewish, Muslim, Salvation Army and Catholic Eastern and Western Rites traditions, the forums aim to provide open, respectful discussion for the community to engage and share experiences with people from other faiths. Each forum focuses on a different faith tradition, with a specialist speaker presenting an outline of his/her faith, key beliefs, similarities to, and differences from, other traditions.

Following each forum, attendees are invited to extend their learning by attending a special service of the nominated faith in the following week to experience firsthand how others worship within our local region. By providing both discussion-based and practical opportunities for people to immerse themselves in each faith, the forums work to facilitate a deeper understanding and respect for people of all faith traditions.

Centring on the Jewish faith tradition, the March forum featured speaker Ruth Jacobs, who shared some of the historical background of the Jewish faith, parallels with other traditions and core beliefs. To the nearly 50 people who had gathered, Ruth emphatically stated one such core belief of the Jewish faith which, it could be argued, is a common thread throughout all faiths:

“God is like a soul. It’s indefinable – you can’t see it, or touch it, but it’s there.”

It’s this sense of commonality which the future interfaith forums set out to explore – and just how similar faith can be across a wide range of traditions. Those attending are encouraged to take part in open discussion as speakers take questions from the audience, aiming to dispel any myths or misconceptions and promote wider understanding and acceptance of all faiths. 

Many who have attended the interfaith forum have expressed their desire to “broaden my horizons, learn more about other faiths and see what we have in common", and “to find out about Jesus’ life and what it may have been like way back when”.

The next forum is planned for Wednesday 7 June and will feature a speaker who will discuss the Catholic Eastern and Western Rites. There will be an open invitation to worship together on Sunday 11 June. Register your interest to attend by visiting the diocesan website.

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Kate Bennett

Kate Bennett is the Communications Manager for the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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