Welcoming People of Different Faiths

Trish Madigan at Shepparton

Although there appears to be a growing secularism, religion remains a vital force within a secular society, said Sister Trish Madigan, OP, at St Brendans Parish Center, Shepparton, on 18 May, 2011.




An Interfaith talk and presentation, Welcoming people of different faiths: Why and how, was given by Sister Patricia Madigan, OP, at St Brendan’s Parish Centre, Knight St on Wednesday, on evening of 18 May, 2011. Sister Patricia, a Dominican nun, is the executive officer of the Broken Bay Diocese Commission for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations and is experienced in interfaith dialogue in many contexts.

Sister Patricia Madigan is a Dominican Nun; her presentation was an exploration of the development of Roman Catholic teaching and praxis in the fields of relations with other faiths and interfaith dialogue.

Sister Trish said that although multi-culturalism and multi-faith were not new to Australia, the recent movements of peoples and the impact of globalisation had made people more aware of the fragility of cultural and religious identities.

“Our future will depend on how well we can create a cohesive society in which the identity of each person is honoured and all are given the opportunity to contribute as Australian citizens to a fair and just society,” she said.





Sister Patricia Madigan presents at St Brendan's Parish Centre

The evening began with a Welcome to Country by Monsignor Peter Jeffrey, Parish Priest of St. Brendan's Church, Shepparton. Mgr Jeffrey is President of the Shepparton Interfaith Network. Mgr Jeffery recalled the Yorta Yorta nation and their stewardship of the environment; in particular, the Bangerang people.

Sister Patricia began by recounting her experiences as a participant at the inaugural Regional Interfaith Dialogue held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in 2004. It was there, in Yogyakarta, that Sr Trish encountered stereotypes held by people of other nations about Australians - for there were Australians in the delegation who were not born in Australia, yet were as fully Australian as any other present.

Australia has been a multicultural and multifaith society for over 200 years—for the Indigenous peoples continued their worship when the First Fleet arrived—and there were Afghan camel drivers - Muslims - in Australia before the First Fleet came. They had arrived by other routes. Some of the sailors on the Endeavour were Muslims; they came ashore and celebrated Ramadan. So tolerance and acceptance of other faiths, other peoples, is a deeper experience of being Australian and has been since colonisation of Australia.

Why Interfaith Activity and Dialogue?

The necessity of Interfaith Dialogue has been brought about by

  • the impact of Globalisation
  • the rise and fall of Western colonialism
  • the improved availability of travel and communications
  • the greater movement of peoples
    • Immigration programs
    • Refugees from other nations
    • Asylum seekers

Sr Patricia also commented on the issue that people are becoming more aware of the fragility of their inherited religious identities.

Although there appears to be a growing secularism, religion remains a vital force within a secular society.

The Church recognises and respects religious and cultural pluralism.

Evolution of the Church on Religious Pluralism

Sr Patricia charted a part through the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church towards an evolving pluralism. This began with exclusivism, to inclusivism (anonymous Christians) to pluralism and continuing inter-religious dialogue as part of the Church's evangelising mission.

Key issues for Christians were explored - the centrality of Christ for the Christian proclamation of the Good News and the emergent conviction that salvation is open to all. There was lively dialogue and exchange with participants in the meeting.

Interfaith activity is frequently a process of dialogue with those of other faiths. Different kinds of dialogue take place, the dialogue of life - the day to day encounter with peoples of other faiths in the community, in schools, shopping centres, and all other places of community interaction. There is the dialogue of spirituality, of practice and personal transformation - not a study event, rather, participation in spiritual events, meditation, and shared spiritual encounters, seeking a common core of mystical experiences. There is the dialogue of Action, where peoples of different religions come together and undertake joint activities, such as prayers in times of drought, and in natural disasters such as the recent Interfaith Prayers for Japan. Then there is the Dialogue of theological discourse, which takes place after inter-religious and interfaith encounter; reflections on practice.

Finally, the future of how the Church might undertake interfaith encounters and inter-religious dialogue was explored under a number of possible theological perspectives - logos theology; the Spirit theology of Pope John Paul II; Wisdom, emerging from the praxis of engagement; and Kingdom theology, that interfaith relations and inter-religious dialogue contribute to building the Kingdom of God for all.

Ten Rules for Interfaith Dialogue

Sister Patricia finished with the Ten Rules for Interfaith Dialogue:

  1. Have a good grasp of your own tradition
  2. Come to dialogue in order to learn and grow, not to change the other
  3. Be willing to help your own faith community to grow and change
  4. Be honest and sincere and assume that others are equally honest and sincere
  5. Respect the religious experience and identity of others and anticipate that they will do the same for you
  6. Don't assume in advance where points fo agreement or disagreement will exist
  7. Be prepared to participate in dialogue on an equal footing
  8. Be self reflective and prepared to critique your own tradition
  9. Strive to experience the other's faith "from within" and be prepared to view yourself differently as a result of an "outside" perspective
  10. Try to be aware oif the cultural conditioning and historical memory we bring to dialogue

  11. ©Commission for Australian Catholic Women

A most lively and stimulating presentation, which was enjoyed by all present.



Members of the Shepparton Interfaith Network with Sister Trish Madigan at St Brendan's Parish Centre, Shepparton
Members of the Shepparton Interfaith Network with Sister Trish Madigan at St Brendan's Parish Centre, Shepparton

About Sister Patricia Madigan, OP

Sister Patricia, a Dominican nun, is the executive officer of the Broken Bay Diocese Commission for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations and is experienced in interfaith dialogue in many contexts.

She facilitated one of the most popular sessions at the 2009 CRA National Assembly, Children of Abraham, in which a group of young adults – Catholic, Muslim and Jewish – shared about their faith and interfaith experiences.

Sister Trish is also a foundation member of the Women's Interfaith Network (WIN) and a Christian representative on the Australian National Dialogue of Christians, Jews and Muslims (ANDCJM). Between 2004 and 2008 she was an Australian delegate at four regional inter-governmental conferences of the Asia-Pacific Regional Dialogue on Interfaith Co-operation for Peace and Harmony.

You may download a flyer for this event. This event was sponsored by Catholic Religious Australia and Catholic Mission.

Catholic Religious Australia Catholic Mission

Source: Shepparton Interfaith Network

Photo Credits: Shepparton Interfaith Network

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