Exploring diversity, belonging and friendship

Seventy men and women who between them worship on Sundays in 14 languages, spent a Saturday in May at a Multicultural Ministry Conference at
Trinity College exploring diversity in the Church and how to promote it.

The conference was funded by the Migrants and Refugees Settlement fund administered by the Foundation and organised by the diocesan Department of Multicultural Ministry. Present were Dinkas, Maoris, Samoans, Indonesians, Karen, Moros,  Chinese speaking Mandarin, Hakka and Cantonese, Indians, Tamils and Australian-born.

The two project workers for the ‘Our children are becoming Australian too quickly’ project (also funded by the Foundation), made their first report. Christina George from Werribee and Abraham Nyieth from Sunshine outlined differences already showing between young people and their parents. Young people from overseas experience bullying at school, and this  impacts on their family.

Some of the sessions included a workshop on handling finances, where several typical case studies were presented on
the budget difficulties families have when they come from cash-less societies; A consultation with Archbishop Freier
on the Diocesan vision; and The Revd Chaplain Soma and Mrs Joy Freier commended the style and content of the
Institute for the Healing of Memories. Joy Freier said: ‘We are the product of our past, but we are not the prisoner of the past.’

Other presenters included: Archdeadon Robert Presland on Theological Education, the Revd Bob Mitchell from Anglican Overseas Aid and Ken Morgan, coordinator of the Archbishop’s Vision program.

From the day came several clear challenges:

  • How we deal with the trauma carried over from conflict in someone’s homeland and the long term consequences.
  • What are our churches doing about asylum seekers in community detention in their communities?
  • Archbishop Freier commented on the idea of the Church moving into the Asia Century, in light of his recent trip to Myanmar.
  • 'Young people want to know how faith impacts their lives. They are losing their identity – they are not Chinese or Australian’, said the Revd Ben Wong from the Parish of Doncaster.
  • From Dr Rachel Busbridge, of La Trobe University’s Centre for Dialogue: ‘Dialogue is a process of learning to listen to others. We get an understanding of our differences, but also of what unites us.’
  • And from Archbishop Philip Freier: are we meeting the challenge of ‘increasing ethnic and cultural diversity of congregations? Do our congregations reflect the diversity which is in our suburbs?’

During the day at an unexpected moment, a Sudanese authorised lay minister at Dandenong parish, Oyem Amay Lek, produced from his brief case a brand new Bible in Chollo language. ‘It is the first time we have had the Old Testament.
This was produced by the Bible Society in Sudan, and it arrived yesterday.’

In a closing theological reflection, Bishop Philip Huggins spoke of the way Jesus reconciled to Peter with the question ‘Do you love me?’ On the basis of this reconciliation, Peter became the great leader of the Early Church. ‘What energy and vitality are released when there is reconciliation.’

Canon Ray Cleary, responding, said he sensed two great themes through the day – belonging and friendship.

For the full report please visit our Multicultural Ministry page.



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