A informative session was enjoyed at St Augustine's Hall, Shepparton on the evening of Monday, 29 September when speakers gave talks about pilgrimages in the many religions of humanity.
The evening commenced with an overview of pilgrimage in the different religions. The concept of undertaking an arduous journey in order to obtain spiritual benefit and advance was given. Penance, struggle, the idea of the journey in order to reach the goal was discussed. Participants were shown images of Jain pilgrimages, Hindu pilgrimages, the Kumbh Mela and the Sikh tradition of visiting the Golden Temple at Amritsar.
The Eight holy places of Buddhism were shown on a map along with an image of the Indian authorities planning peaceful pilgrimages.
Christian pilgrimages in the Holy Land were shown, with the Palm Sunday processions and baptism in the River Jordan. Here, the notion of walking in the footsteps of Jesus - and walking in the footsteps of the founder of any religion was mentioned.
There was an comprehensive account of participating in Hajj, given by Muhammad Bob Graham of the Sa'daat Foundation. Many excellent photographs were shown, and a fulsome explanation of the challenges and patience needed for the Hajj pilgrims was explained. Ms Fatima al-Qarachy gave account of Hajj from the ladies point of view, the notion of leaving very young children home and the struggle this occasioned was raised. Ms Qarachy explained that Hajj was a most difficult undertaking (the lady has done this five times) in a hot and unendearing environment. Cleanliness during Hajj was a most important issue, Ms Qarachy told.
Bill Heath, his wife Catherine Dooley and their children presented Camino de Santiago (The Way), 780 kilometres of walking from France to Spain. They shared of their fun and their challenges on the journey, a journey of transformation - of self-understanding and perceptions of the meaning of their participation in the Catholic Faith. And the irksome experience of not being allowed to sit on the steps of St James Cathedral at the end of the journey. The family present a large collage of photographs taken on the journey.
Ms Dawn Cooper presented on visiting Buddhist Monasteries, and gave a pictorial view of attending a monastery where the Dalai Lama arrived and spent several days giving teaching. The participation of the novice monks was given, attending to the overwhelming size of crowds attending and the organisation, preparation and distribution of meals, erecting shaminas (coverings), and cleaning up afterwards. Participants were shown images from two Buddhist monasteries, and the various symbols - stupas, etc - were explained.
Toward the end of the evening, Dr Frank Purcell, President of the Shepparton Interfaith Network, called for questions and drew together common understandings that emerged from the presentations. Participants spent some time viewing the photograph display of "Walking the Camino" and asking questions of Bill Heath, Catherine Dooley and their family.
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