Interfaith work in the Greater Dandenong area in Melbourne is alive and well! Fifty years ago at the end of Vatican II Nostra Aetate was proclaimed and Pope St John Paul II gave us living witness to what can be done in this area.
Here at Noble Park our parish is now very much aware of other ethnicities (over 155) and religions in Greater Dandenong: Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, etc., and all varieties of Christianity. Our parishioners turn up enthusiastically to the Annual Interfaith Concert Gathering and also to the Schools Interfaith Concert, both in October. In turn we invite members (non-Ukrainians of other faiths) to our Theophany Eve Dinner and Praznyk luncheon. The parishioners also warmly support me as the present President of the Greater Dandenong Interfaith Network which works closely with the Mayor and Dandenong Council on many communal projects. The Network is now in its 26th year, the oldest in Australia and is now a model for overseas networks.
Very recent work has kept me busy:-
(1) Addressing our citizens at the December Carols Night (Moslems were present).
(2) Study tours of places of worship of other faiths with Protestant missionaries on leave in January of this year.
(3) The Grand Opening of the Hoa Nghiem Community & Cultural Centre (Vietnamese Buddhist) in Springvale on Jan 12 (photos included). The Vietnamese and Cambodian Buddhists are extremely respectful and open to us as Christians.
(4) In a mad world of conflict and mayhem the Islamic community of South-East Melbourne has invited me to a dinner in late January to discuss ways of opening up communications between Christians and Moslems.
(5) To start the year off, we always have an annual breakfast in February with guest speakers. Well attended!
In February I will be going on a study tour and pilgrimage to north India (from Delhi, Varanasi and the Ganges, Bodh Gaya to Calcutta) with a group of 8 people led by Rev Fr Dr John Dupuche where we will explore places of religious significance with other Indian Rite Eastern priests and scholars. At the end of the pilgrimage we will celebrate the Liturgy at the tomb of Blessed Mother Teresa (to be canonized in September this year). The Ukrainian Liturgy will also be celebrated throughout our journey.
Have I lost my faith? By listening to others the contrary takes place. Seeking “ultimate reality” is a journey that we can share with each other with our differences of belief and practices and also with our shared beliefs and practices (for example, meditation and social justice issues).
I’ll be in touch with you again for further insights on this exciting work.
Rev Fr Robert Stickland