The Centre of Melbourne Multifaith & Others Network (COMMON) celebrated International Peace Day on the afternoon of Sunday 21st September 2014. It was hosted by the Melbourne Unitarian Peace Memorial Church on Grey Street, East Melbourne. The theme of the event was ‘Sharing Our Heritage’.
Members from various faith groups attended – Aboriginal, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Unitarian, Humanitarian and Scientology.
Volunteers from the community group, Youth for Human Rights, also attended and helped with the set up and registration.
The afternoon began with a ‘meet-and-greet’ session and a variety of finger food and drinks.
Yorta Yorta Aboriginal elder Auntie Walda Blow opened proceedings with acknowledging the Wirrundjeri people, the original custodians of the land. Rachel ……… , an aboriginal musician accompanied by Hal Trapp on the yidhaki (didgeridoo) sang two indigenous renditions.
Anand Shome, the President of COMMON, addressed the audience welcoming all attendees and introducing the special topic for discussion for the afternoon – Should Melbourne have a Museum of Religions? He then introduced budding Melbourne opera tenor Shoumendu Ganguly who rendered two pieces – ‘Time to say Goodbye’ and ‘Bring him Home’ to a warm applause.
Projects Officer Jamel Singh showed a video of Museum of Religions in Taiwan, a brainchild of Master Hsien … . The video is also available for viewing on www.common.com (check)
COMMON Secretary, Abraham Shwartz, talked of the vision of COMMON, brainchild of Jessiee Singh. The organisation is now ten years old.
Abraham complimented the Unitarians for a Peace Memorial building where most communities usually have war memorials!
He introduced the first speaker Mr. Peter Abrehart, the Chairperson of the Unitarian Organisation of Victoria.
Peter Abrehart talked of the activities of the Unitarians and their commitment to the Multifaith course towards harmony within all faiths and world peace. He concluded with a saying – ‘Rejoice in our faiths but remember our common humanity.’
Various speakers with varying experiences had been invited to give their views on the idea of a Museum of World Religions.
In his introduction Abraham said this was an opportunity to consult with the community regarding the idea of establishing a museum.
The views were indeed varied.
Mr. Vaasan ….. a representative of the Indian/Hindu community and president of the Federation of Indian Organisations spoke of the efforts of his community to establish a museum of India & Hinduism in Melbourne – the obstacles and the progress. He offered some positive ideas from the experiences gained by his team in their efforts towards establishing such a museum.
Ms. Glenda Smith, curator of the Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra, gave a brief account of the beginnings and progress of the museum and suggested that the idea of a Museum of Religions was a good one but that it should have a modest start and grow with time.
Helen Light, former Executive Officer of the Jewish Museum in Melbourne, with 27 years’ experience spoke against the idea of ‘one more’ museum in Melbourne.
She questioned the relevance of a museum in modern times and the need to regularly change exhibitions in a museum (a necessary part of the relevance of a museum especially for regular visitors).
She recommended a ‘Multifaith spirituality centre’ and perhaps the occasional travelling exhibition.
Abraham said that it was good to get all views.
The topic was then presented to the floor and ably handled by Jamel with help from Abraham and Jessiee.
Various members from the audience spoke of their experiences about inter-faith activities and various views for and against a museum were aired.
Sam Garkawe from Lismore spoke of two other such museums – one in Edinburgh, Scotland and the other in Russia. It was suggested that some faith groups could be more interested in running and/or establishing their own ‘museums’ rather than exerting so much effort into a ‘Multifaith Museum.
It was also suggested that it could be up to the government to initiate such a move.
An idea was put forward to have an effective interactive website where those interested could access information concerning ‘faiths’, the progress of inter-faith movements worldwide and also as a resource for teachers and students.
Someone said that a ‘virtual’ museum was perhaps a more viable preposition rather than a physical one.
A leading Jewish member of the Melbourne Jewish community, Walter Rappaport, played the Jewish ram’s horn – a tradition followed worldwide leading up to the Jewish New Year which falls a few days away – on 25th. September.
Zack Shwartz sang two songs about peace, walking together towards harmony and love, and living together, accompanied by acoustic guitar with musical interludes on a harmonica.
Project Officer Jamel Singh announced that while proceedings had been ongoing she has been able to secure two websites along the lines discussed earlier.
Dya Singh led a ‘multi chant’ rendition accompanied by Rachel, Auntie Walda, Abraham Shwartz, Jessiee Singh and Jamel Singh.
Please visit: http://youtu.be/JyK7WKxWvpo
The gathering then moved outside to release five white doves symbolising, as mentioned by former President and convenor of COMMON’ Ms. Jessiee Singh, the longing of freedom for billions of people around the globe; the refugees who longed for peace in their home countries and the ongoing efforts of those who live in free countries to help those in distress.