A common prayer

The Journey of Promise program was a collaborative event designed to unite those of diverse faiths and to celebrate difference.

Journey of Promise is part of the Federal Government’s Living in Harmony initiative which is supported by the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and celebrates cultural, racial, and social diversity. It culminates in Harmony Day on March 21, coinciding with the United Nations Day for the Elimination of Racial Vilification.

The Journey of Promise signature program involved 30 young Christians, Muslims and Jews aged between 18 and 35 who spent a week living together in order to promote understanding between the three major monotheistic faiths. The diverse program included visits to churches, mosques, synagogues, and other religious centres. There were opportunities to encounter a wide range of people in business, media, and community projects and also some exposure to Aboriginal spirituality.

The program was designed to counteract some of the undue fears that have arisen through national security concerns, refugee issues and terrorism. World events have contributed to a culture of fear in Australia, where mosques, synagogues and churches (particularly those outside the anglo-celtic tradition) have been under attack in recent years.

This prejudice has worked its way into business, politics, and the Australian psyche. The objective of this collaboration between the Christian, Jewish and Islamic communities is to bring these issues to the forefront and for young people to take an active part in the dialogue.

Convenor of the program Reverend Jon Inkpin, who works for the National Council of Churches in Australia, says that the program promised to be a unifying event.

‘I think above all we’ve got a very interesting program, and very good people. Basically, it’s about the building of relationships, enabling people to meet one another and spend time together. In doing so it is a chance to hear one another’s stories and move beyond the labels and preconceptions that we often have about one another,’ he says.

The project is a result of collaboration between the National Council of Churches in Australia, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, and the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

‘Participants encounter practices that are quite different to their own. There are different conceptions of God, and those things are also valuable and sometimes they enrich us. I think we’ve actually ended up with a deeper understanding of what we ourselves believe through what others believe.

‘You discover that you have an awful lot in common, but also discover the differences which are sometimes significant, but not in fundamental terms. Right at the heart of them is a commitment to peace and compassion for everyone.’ Reverend Jon says that ultimately, the three Abrahamic faiths involved are united by the concept of journey and pilgrimage.

Pilgrimage is an important part of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, and the gathering coincided with the Hajj—the annual pilgrimage to Mecca for Muslims.

‘The title, Journey of Promise, is used deliberately so that participants from each of the three faiths all look towards their common inheritance. It’s an Abrahamic faith that we come from, and we all understand faith as a journey,’ he says.

‘We’re on a common journey and what we are looking to do is respond to the promise that has been given to us through our faith traditions by God. We’re not there to argue about who’s got this or that right, but to be able to share our understanding of God .

‘My feeling is that dialogue between faiths isn’t about finding the lowest common denominators, but enriching above all, relationships we have with others.’

Reverend Jon says that it is important that tangible outcomes are reached through such programs so that results can be seen in the community.

‘We hope to offer a model of how Christians, Muslims and Jews can work together to overcome some of those problems. To respect one another, and value one another even where you disagree.’

One of the visits made by the young people was to the Islamic Women’s Welfare Association to hear first hand from Muslim women their experience and to foster understanding.

Some believe that when ignorance is mended with understanding, unity can be achieved. This is what the Journey of Promise seeks to do and if nothing else, it will pave the way for similar future endeavours.         

Beth Doherty is the assistant editor of Eureka Street.  

 

 

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