A dedicated group joined the Shepparton Interfaith Network on the evening of Tuesday June 13 at the Numurkah Town Hall and heard speakers from many faiths speak about their faith and their experience.
On what was a rather cool evening (thank goodness for heating!) Dr Frank Purcell opened the proceedings with an overview of the history of Australia, migration and settlement, and how this included many elements of religion and culture from the European continent and its antecedents in the hunter-gatherer society.
Dr Purcell was followed by participants of many faiths. From the Islamic faith, the representative was Ms Betul Tuna, an Australian-born Muslim originally from Mooroopna who addressed numerous issues around being an Australian muslim and her work with women, women’s rights and in particular, addressing female genital mutilation. Ms Tuna spoke at length on cultural practices, and Islamic practices, and how the two may vary from region to region. Representing Reformed Judaism was scholar and speaker Dr Elisabeth Holdsworth, who spoke on the role of women in Reformed Judaism, and the historicity of women authoring several books in what is called the Hebrew Bible. Dr Holdsworth gave an account of rural reformed Jews meeting in Bendigo, and the paucity of Reform Rabbi’s in Australia, and women rabbi’s in particular.
Ms Liz Arcus spoke on the Buddhist path and her experiences with Buddhist monks and how listening to them and embodying the teachings as presented awakened the practice of mindfulness in her life. Sharing a photo album of Tibetan Monks preparing a sand chakra in Shepparton (circa 2002), Ms Arcus traced her experience of Buddhism and how mindfulness slowly penetrated into many areas of her life and enabled a purchase on inner peace in what were busy times for her. Ms Arcus gave a serene yet penetrating presentation of Buddhist practice.
We were then graced with the experience of Maureen Sexton, RSM, who spoke of her life of faith and the missionary experiences in Pakistan and Papua New Guinea. Maureen commenced with a presentation of the Creed and how as a child, she may not have assented to the contents of the creed with the commitment and lived experience that she responds with today in the Church. A distinction was made between faith understanding as a child, as an adult entering religious life and as a mature, committed Christian.
In the times that Maureen was living in community in Pakistan, matters were not so tense, and peoples of other faiths were tolerated and accepted in social environments – particularly where they were known for their good works, such as education, health care, care of the poor, etc. Work in Papua New Guinea was a totally different experience, yet, for her, an experience of faith from another perspective. Maureen also shared deeper reflections looking back on the work of her congregation in Pakistan and Papua New Guinea.
clockwise from top left: Ms Liz Arcus, Ms Betul Tuna, Dr Elisabeth Holdsworth, Maureen Sexton, RSM