Interfaith guru's 9/11 moment



Many of the interviews on Eureka Street TV have featured the views and insights of interfaith activists. Usually they've commented on the theology or politics of interreligious dialogue. This burgeoning activity is one of the few bright spots, a sign of hope in our troubled era marked by conflict between different religious groups.

This week we offer quite a different angle on interfaith collaboration, a focus on the spiritual dimension. The video features an interview with Ros Bradley who is editor of a book of prayers from all the major traditions, and excerpts from the launch of the book which took place recently in Sydney.

This includes a moving segment from Gail O'Brien, wife of highly regarded Sydney-based surgeon and cancer specialist Chris O'Brien who died from a brain tumour in 2009, as she explains his contribution to the collection.

The book is called A World of Prayer, and it's published by the prestigious American company, Orbis Books. As the blurb on its inside cover explains, ‘Nearly a hundred prominent men and women from every religious tradition and region of the world share a favourite prayer and offer their own reflections on its meaning.'

The very dogged Bradley spent three years persuading and cajoling just about every major religious figure around the globe to contribute to the book. It includes such spiritual luminaries as the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Nelson Mandela, Hans Kung, John Shelby Spong and Rowan Williams.

Ros Bradley was born and raised in the UK, and her parents were agnostic and very secular. Though there's a strong Jewish heritage on one side of the family, they didn't attend any synagogue or church, and while growing up she didn't receive any religious instruction. 

Despite this, as a young adult she was drawn to religion, and in her late 20s she was baptised and confirmed as an Anglican. Shortly after she spent two years working as a volunteer teacher in Papua New Guinea. This experience in an exotic culture awakened in her an abiding interest in different cultures and belief systems.

She has lived in Australia for 25 years, and was received into the Catholic Church in Sydney in 2002. She has worked in public relations and marketing for several charities including the Fred Hollows Foundation, and in world development with the Methodist Church.

Bradley is a founding member of a Sydney-based interfaith initiative called Companions in Dialogue which promotes fellowship and understanding among its members and holds regular public forums on a range of topics.

In recent years she has become a committed member of the World Community for Christian Meditation, attending one of its groups that meets weekly at a Catholic Church in Sydney's lower north shore.

She is also a member of the council of Eremos, an organisation which explores and promotes spirituality in Australia, and of her local St Vincent de Paul chapter in Sydney.

A World of Prayer is her second compilation of prayers from different religions. The first was published in 2008 and is called Mosaic: Favourite Prayers and Reflections from Inspiring Australians.

Peter KirkwoodPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant. He has a Master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity.

Topic tags: Peter Kirkwood, Ros Bradley, interfaith dialogue



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Existing comments

If ego is a veil between humans and God, and in prayer all are equal. Than my favorite prayer, simply consists in the repetition of the most beautiful word of all times : Jesus.
Myra | 13 July 2012

Dear Peter, I am a Hindu and I have attended 'Christian meditation' group in Melbourne and was active in Interfaith affairs in Victoria. Hindus and other Asiatics in Australia / outside India do not like these interfaith strategies as devised by the locals in the West. What is 'Christian Mediatation'? How does it differ from a Buddhist/Hindu meditation other than the word or syllable used for different groups. Nowadays this is being labelled by Hindus as 'assimilation by reverse osmosis'. The Christian and West takes themes/practices from the East and label them as their own. This needs a serious consideration among the Western religious traditionalists. BTW do you realise the 'menin-less-ness' of the term Interfaith? Faith is something that one or a group has to have or take-up. Interfaith is nobody's faith. You cannot produce one person to say that Interfaith is his/her faith. Kind Regards, Chockalingam (Chocka, for short)
Karuppan Chockalingam | 13 July 2012

Dear Chocka, I also attend many interfaith events, and know Hindus and other Asians who do like them and think they are worthwhile, so I think your portrayal of their views is a little simplistic and too much of a generalisation. Nevertheless, I agree with you that Western Christians need to be wary of any new form of the old colonial attitude that seeks to dominate and rip off other cultures and traditions. Having said that, if you read the writings of Laurence Freeman, the present director of the World Community for Christian Meditation, he carefully and eloquently explains that Christian meditation, while it has parallels with Eastern practices, is essentially a rediscovery of the contemplative tradition in ancient Christianity, mostly from the desert fathers. And regarding your comments on the term 'interfaith', I also have some sympathy with your comments - personally I prefer the term 'inter-religious' - but the word 'interfaith' seems to be widely used and accepted by activists in this area. In English there is no higher body governing the use of words or expressions - it is usage that determines meaning and legitimacy - so in using the term 'interfaith' I am following widespread usage of the term. Kind regards, Peter Kirkwood
Peter Kirkwood | 13 July 2012

Karuppan Chockalingam13 Jul 2012: "You cannot produce one person to say that Interfaith is his/her faith." This is not the meaning of "Interfaith"; which usually means cooperation between people whose interpretation of "Faith" differs according to their culture and religious traditions. On the other hand, there seems to be a growing number of people who can feel at home within two or more expressions of belief in God. It seems likely this trend will develop as awareness and appreciation of other expressions of faith grows, and prejudices diminish.
Robert Liddy | 14 July 2012


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