I had the opportunity to take part in an interfaith experience with the other women from the ‘Leadership for Mission’ program. Our experience took us up to Sydney where we listened to a panel of three faith filled women. Our lecturer Janine Luttick as a representative of Christian faith, Dr Mahsheed Ansari a lecturer in Islamic Studies, and Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio from Emanuel Synagogue.
The panel focused on a story shared by all three faiths, the relationship of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. Though they spoke of the same story, they each brought in their own perspective and theologies. The discussion opened the way for critical and reflexive thinking to help understand our different faiths. We were a room of women seeking God and coming together to share our experiences.
In Dr Mahsheed I saw a similar passion that I see in the women of my faith. For her, faith was not simply a set of beliefs she held but it shaped her daily life. Her faith shone through her life choices like choosing to wear her headscarf as a sign of modesty. Rabbi Jacqui encouraged us on the presence of female rabbis and the impact of having women in leadership positions. In their congregation, highlighting the female intuition had led to celebrations for events which normally wouldn’t be celebrated. For example, they had introduced celebrations for divorce and miscarriages to acknowledge the pain experienced and to pray for a better path moving forward.
A common theme which came up throughout the discussion was the experience that when women lead, some people may feel confronted. In each faith, women are passionate and want to be able to support their congregations, but it has often been difficult finding those opportunities.
After the panel we went to the Gallipoli Mosque in Auburn where we were welcomed by an imam who explained its history and how relationship with God is understood in Islam. Dr Masheed took us to the Islamic Scientific Research Association (ISRA) where we were welcomed by ten other Muslim women. They offered us beautiful cheese and crackers and shared the ways prayer and faith links their community. They had decorated a space with fairy lights and we sat together to discuss the similarities in the struggles we encountered as women of faith. One woman raised the misconceptions others had about her beliefs and it made her wonder about the misconceptions she has about others. Another young woman spoke up and told us that she believed in Jesus. She had been self-studying the Trinity and explained the concept to the whole group, maybe even better than some of us could have! For her it was her effort to understand others that had helped her to understand her own faith better.
Another woman shared how she had been hurt by a Christian who had insisted that he knew her faith better than she did and wanted to prove it to her. Her story touched me so deeply, so on the way out I spoke to her privately and apologised on behalf of that person. I realised that she could be one of many who have been hurt in this way.
From the experience I gained a better understanding of the power of collaboration, building connections and developing empathy. What we found was that women are forces to be reckoned with in our Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities. While we may never be the same or believe the same things; in diversity there is strength and that is to be celebrated. We bring a perspective others may not always see and if we don’t face the challenges in front of us, we might miss out on contributing to a situation. Our input can bring a positive impact to the whole community. In our own way, in our own churches, we must answer the radical call to love as women of the faith.
In the work The Waterjars does we have the privilege of working with many great people and communities. On 28 September 2018 the people of Palu, Central Sulawesi, were impacted by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and a tsunami which have devastated the island.
The Waterjars and Entrust Foundation have been working closely with the people of Mbuwu, a small village one and a half hours outside of Palu. Through our work we have come to count the community of Mbuwu as our friends and the tragedy has hit us deeply.
All the people of Palu are in our prayers. We ask God to continue protecting survivors and to show His mercy as relief efforts are made to find those still trapped in the mud and wreckage.
To our friends who have been affected by this tragedy, we are with you and we are thinking of you. The challenge you are facing will not go on forever. You will see tomorrow. Take care of each other and know that God is with you.
We stand with the people of Palu during this difficult time as they recover from this natural disaster. There is a great need for basic necessities such as clean water, food, shelter and medical supplies for the injured.
Thank you to our friends at Entrust Foundation who are running an emergency relief campaign to support communities in need. To donate click here