Tuesday, 11 March 2008

beyond tolerance

i've just got back from the interfaith forum, and it has been a lovely experience. it was a chance to catch up with old friends and meet some wonderful new people. it was also a chance to reaffirm our commitment to creating peace & understanding between faiths and cultures.

the women's forum on sunday was great, with contributions by talented women, some of whom were religious leaders. i really enjoyed sr catherine's explanation of the six stages of faith or spirituality, as well as the personal experiences shared by some of the women. on sunday evening, we had an address by rabbi david rose, visiting from scotland. he gave us a rundown of interfaith activities in scotland, which were very well supported by their government. i particularly enjoyed his perspective on how to make interfaith more attractive to the kinds of groups who are most unaccepting of others (and believe me, these exist in every faith community).

but the best parts of the forum were outside of the programme, like praying with a group of muslim women under the trees in front of parliament. later in the afternoon, i was lying in the sun near that very spot with a couple of buddhist women, and we had the most amazing conversation. sharing our experiences, from our own faith perspectives, was extremely powerful. i found that the discussion helped to be stronger in my own faith, even though i was sharing with people who believed something fundamentally different. but it was the common values that helped us to understand each other's experiences and to learn from them.

at dinner on sunday night, i was sitting next to the race relations commissioner, joris de bres. this man is a national treasure, and is one of the heroes i talked about in an earlier post (i know you may read this at some point my friend - just don't let it go to your head!). we had a neat group around us, with some lively and entertaining conversation.

this afternoon, i was on "the panel" on radio nz. if you missed it, you can catch the first half here, and the second half here. it was an all-female affair - two women panellists and a female host. don't think that has happened before, and it was fun. when it was over, jane clifton was sweet enough to drive me to the airport. we had a great discussion on a variety of political topics as she navigated rush-hour wellington traffic.

all in all, i've come back home rejuvenated and inspired by a multitude of experiences. i feel spiritually uplifted, and inspired to continue doing the things i do, even though it tires me out so much. it's experiences like these that reaffirm my faith in humanity and the goodness of people. and it's why interfaith activity is so important - because it is so much harder to hate a whole group of people when you've just had positive interactions with a few members of that group.

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