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Friday, 09 March 2018 10:42

Columban Centre to be a bridge of friendship between Christians and Muslims

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0318CombanCentre2 150The Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations in Blacktown has been officially blessed, with Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv hailing it as a place which will “build bridges” of understanding and friendship in the community, Catholic Outlook reports.

The Centre is located in the Institute for Mission in Blacktown, and the official blessing on February 28, was attended by Catholic representatives from diocesan agencies (education, youth, mission, parish and school), the Uniting Church, Coptic Orthodox, Muslims and a Jewish Rabbi.

Auntie Janice Brown gave the Acknowledgement of Country. Fr Patrick McInerney, Director of the Centre, welcomed all the guests and gave a brief account of the Centre’s 20-year history and activities. Ryan Epondulan explained his role as Youth and Networking Coordinator in promoting interfaith relations among youth, including coordinating Youth PoWR (Parliament of the World’s Religions). Fr Patrick and Ryan then showcased the interfaith resources of the Centre and invited and offered collaboration with all present in promoting Christian-Muslim relations in Western Sydney into the future.

Associate Professor Mehmet Ozalp, Director of the Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation, Charles Sturt University, a long-standing friend of the Centre, gave a response, stressing the need and importance of interreligious dialogue from a Muslim point of view. He shared how this calling to interfaith relations had changed and enriched his life.

In his address, Bishop Vincent affirmed that Christians and Muslims “stand united as citizens of Australia and as brothers and sisters of the human family”. Recalling his installation when he pledged to follow in the footsteps of predecessors, particularly Bishop Kevin Manning, who built bridges between Christian and Muslim communities, Bishop Vincent stressed the importance of crossing over the religious divide and building an inclusive and harmonious society.

“I am so pleased that the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations is now located in the heart of our Diocese and the heart of Western Sydney,” Bishop Vincent said.

“We are the epitome of multicultural, multi-faith and ethnically diverse Australia. The Centre will play a vital role in building bridges in our community, bridges of understanding, inclusion and solidarity instead of walls of prejudice, division and exclusion.”

Jesus is the model of Christian mission, Bishop Vincent said.

“Jesus constantly went beyond the borders of every kind and affirmed the humanity of all," he said. "In so doing, he invites us to step beyond our fears, our tribal confines and to expand the boundaries of our love. Our mission as Christians is to make peace, to nurture goodwill and to facilitate unity in the face of economic and social inequality, cultural polarisation and fragmentation. We can be the places that refuse to be tribal, that create spaces of welcome and encounter and address mutual suspicion.”

Bishop Vincent concluded with a prayer of blessing.

“May this Centre be a place where truth is deepened, understanding is enriched, unity is strengthened and diversity is enhanced. But above all, may it be a place where Christians and Muslims join hands in friendship, mutual respect and love, so that they may build bridges of reconciliation, peace and harmony for the wider society.”

 

This article was first published on the Catholic Outlook website. Read it here.

Photo: Catholic Outlook/Laura Bellissimo Photography