Wednesday, 25 March 2015 -- The Australian Intercultural Society (AIS) and the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission (EIC) co-hosted the Muslim and Catholic Maryam Meal for approximately 100 guests at the Catholic Leadership Centre in East Melbourne. The dinner focused on two topics: Mary as a common figure to both Catholicism and Islam, and the contributions of Islam and Catholicism to society and culture.
The choice of date was especially meaningful as 25 March marks the Feast of the Annunciation for Catholics, and 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the 1965 Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.
Welcoming remarks were given by the Very Rev Fr Denis Stanley, EIC chair and Episcopal Vicar of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, and Ahmet Keskin, executive director of AIS.
Keynote speakers included Sr Dr Mary Reaburn, NDS, lecturer in Biblical Studies at Yarra Theological Union and member of EIC, as well as Dr Zuleyha Keskin, course coordinator and lecturer at Charles Sturt University.
Other speakers included Bishop Mark Edwards OMI, auxiliary bishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, who led the prayer for God's blessing on the meal; Sheikh Riad Galil, imam of West Heidelberg Mosque, who recited from the chapter of the Qur'an titled Maryam (19:16-22); and Martin Chatfield, member of the Catholic Interfaith Committee, who recited from the second chapter of the Holy Gospel: the Gospel according to St Luke.
These discussions highlighted how both the Islamic and Catholic traditions honour Mary as an excellent role model for men and women alike.
To complement the talks, two videos were shown. The first video, produced by the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne and titled Contributions of the Catholic Church to Society and Culture, demonstrated Catholicism's impact on multiple aspects of society, such as family structure, music, art and architecture. The second video, 1001 Inventions and the Library of Secrets, considered the scientific heritage of Muslim civilisation from the perspective of several schoolchildren.
The meal concluded with a discussion of the evening's themes.
AIS would especially like to thank EIC Executive Officer David Schütz for all his efforts in organising this event.
On Tuesday 9 December 2014, AIS hosted the Australian premiere of the documentary Love is a Verb. The screening was held at Palace Cinema Como, featuring a Q&A session with director Terry Spencer Hesser and producer Hakan Berberoglu. Professor Rae Frances, dean of the Faculty of Arts at Monash University, gave the opening remarks, and George Donikian was the MC.
Love Is A Verb is an examination of a social movement of Sufi inspired Sunni Muslims that began in Turkey in the 1960s and now reaches across the globe. The group is called Hizmet (the Turkish word for service) or the Gulen Movement after its inspiration, leader and beloved teacher Fethullah Gulen, a man that Time Magazine named as one of the most influential leaders in the world in 2013.
Here is how the filmmakers describe their work:
"Through co-operation with the people inspired by Gulen, we had unprecedented access to the ideas and actions of the movement around the world. We met teachers who crawled through a tunnel to open a school in Sarajevo during the war and the students whose lives they changed. We met a Sufi conductor whose orchestra is composed of children whose parents were once at war. We got a glimpse of the interfaith work the movement provides in Turkey, including a visit to Rumi’s exquisite shrine. We went to their schools in Turkey, in Somalia, in Iraq. We meet a Kurdish teacher in Iraq who credits everything she is to her former Turkish teachers who stayed during the bombings, and a Kurdish woman who had also gone to one of the Turkish schools in Iraq and is now working as an engineer to bring water to the desert. Finally, in Somalia we followed two Turkish doctors putting their lives at risk in a place that other relief organizations have deemed too dangerous, a place where they sleep under armed guard."