Interfaith Encounters: A Bright Light for Communities

The events unfolding in Sydney in the previous weeks prompted a gathering of State Government and Religious leaders to address the escalation of religious and cultural tensions. To respond to the recent event, the group released a joint statement from the NSW Premier, the Minister for Multiculturalism, and a diverse group of NSW faith leaders, highlighting the need to protect places of worship to guarantee individuals' rights to practise the religion of their choices in security.

“Places of worship are places of peace and prayer. The people who gather there should never feel threatened or unsafe, no matter what religion they follow. As faith leaders representing the diverse religious communities of New South Wales, we stand united against all forms of hate and violence,” reads the statement.

To create pathways of dialogue and understanding for positive interreligious encounters, Catholic Mission has created the Interfaith Encounters Program, which brings senior students from diverse faith backgrounds together, providing them with the platform to develop new friendships, celebrate difference, deepen faith, and promote peace and social cohesion.

"More than ever, we can see that it is essential to create opportunities for peaceful dialogue between faith communities. Through our Interfaith Encounters Program, we work directly with students to increase their awareness and to create safe spaces for them to make true friendships outside of their usual circles,” says Catherine Towiro, Catholic Mission Interfaith Encounters Program Coordinator. “They engage in experiences and activities that opens them up to difference and to developing the understanding and skills required to engage in genuine dialogue. Through this encounter and dialogue, they can truly accept one another and find common ground together.”

The program creates concrete ways of engagement for the students and staff to form genuine connections.

“The students share stories from their lived experience with one another, they listen deeply to one another, they have time to develop trust in one another and build friendships, which means then they are able to asks questions of each other, be curious and explore ideas together,“ Catherine said.

It is the voice of the students that speaks strongest. During recent visits to places of worship in March, students and staff shared their lived experiences and their feedback on the program.

“Other schools should be a part of this beautiful program. It has made me a stronger person. It strengthens communities together. For example, the Muslim community and the Christian community. It breaks every single stereotype as well as barriers, and ultimately makes us and defines us as one person, that we are all equal at the end of the day,” said Noah Hasna, School Captain from Unity Grammar Islamic School.

Funding for the Interfaith Encounters project has been provided by the NSW government through Multicultural NSW.

Interfaith Encounters Program

The Interfaith Encounters program brings senior students from diverse faith backgrounds together. The program provides the platform for students and staff to develop new friendships, celebrate difference, deepen faith and promote peace and social cohesion.

Learn More About the Program