On Wednesday 15 June, Affinity Intercultural Foundation & The Macquarie University hosted the ‘Faith, Social Cohesion & Community Resilience’ one-day interfaith symposium.
Affinity looks to the great power of faith and religion in promoting constructive communication across traditions, cultures and borders. They believe such power can facilitate mutual understanding, social cohesion, sustainable progress, and peaceful coexistence.
This symposium brought people of different faith traditions, and cultures, together to establish good relations and address common challenges while focusing on peaceful coexistence and interfaith dialogue in society. Faith traditions and interfaith groups are instrumental in restoring a moral compass that mobilises masses to stand up against division and hate.
Held at the Macquarie University City Campus, the Faith, Social Cohesion & Community Resilience symposium provided a high-level forum for leaders from diverse backgrounds to come together and share their experiences and the lessons learned over recent years.
The Symposium began with a Keynote session with three keynote speakers. Joining virtually from the US was Professor Dr John Esposito, Professor of Religion, International Affairs, and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University. From India, Mr Tushar Gandhi, great-grandson of Mahatma Gandhi joined the symposium online. Finally, from NSW was MS Maha Krayem Abdo OAM, CEO of Muslim Women Australia.
The symposium hosted 35 national speakers over a series of seven panel sessions. Panel speakers varied from academics, faith leaders, youth members, and moderators including various distinguished media members and academics.
An underlying theme of the symposium was regardless of how believers of different religions follow their faith in their daily lives, all religions promote life-sustaining values, such as peace, love, tolerance, forgiveness, compassion, human rights and justice.
The audience was enlightened to hear from exemplary thought leaders on various topics. The rich panel topics included:
- Definitions and Intersections: The power of faith in building social cohesion
- How is Covid-19 being used by extremists within faith groups and what are the social impacts of Covid-19 and misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories?
- How can faith communities respond when symbols of faith are appropriated by hate groups?
- How can religious actors build bridges across communities impacted by recent crises?
- Interreligious and cultural dialogue approaches and solution examples in solving these problems
- Youth Leadership Perspectives on Extremism & Belonging
- Empowering religious leaders & communities: What is the role of faith in building social cohesion?
This one-day interfaith symposium aimed to make a valuable contribution to social cohesion by highlighting and strengthening the positive role of faith traditions and cultures as an integral element of countering violent extremism efforts. Furthermore, to promote grassroots-level community dialogue to establish mutual understanding, respect, trust, and cooperation in the educational process of interfaith dialogue.
Affinity hopes to provide similar events in the future, tackle such issues within our society, nurture a culture of coexistence, and help build a better Australia.