Three days, 25 presenters, hundreds of conversations – all in one Peace Conference.
When United Theological College (UTC) hosted the first inter-faith Peace Conference of its kind*, from 7 – 9 March, event coordinator Dr Anthony Rees was pleased to see that over 12 months of planning come together, but more importantly, that its success has created the energy for further events of its kind in coming years.
Supported by the Centre for Public and Contextual Theology and the Charles Sturt University Faculty of Arts and Education, the Peace Conference was over 12 months in the making by a number of stakeholder groups, in particular Charles Sturt University.
“The purpose of the Peace Conference was to bring together Islamic and Christian academics as representatives of their own tradition, and then to use sacred texts as a site to discuss the understanding and communications of religion through texts”, said Anthony Rees, United Theological College Lecturer and UTC’s key coordinator of the Peace Conference.
“The exchange of ideas at the Peace Conference was a fabulous starting point for this important conversation in modern society. These texts, which we hold dear, are commonly misrepresented in popular interpretations of them. This is true inside and outside of our communities. Whilst we understand that these texts contain problems, they also contain wonderful resources to overcome these and other problems.”
“This scholarly gathering of Islamic and Christian scholars around issues of peace within our own religious heritages, was the first of its kind in Australia. Many significant connections have been made, which promise to lead to a range of positive outcomes.”
The Peace Conference featured two key-note international guest speakers, in Professor Daniel Smith-Christopher, of Loyola Marymount University and Professor Zeki Saritoprak of John Carroll University, alongside twenty-three other presenters.
Academics from the University of Divinity, Australian National University, Western Sydney University, Alphacrucis College, as well as a number of colleagues from within the Charles Sturt University School of Theology, and the Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation participated in the three days of lectures, learnings and presentations.
Professor Andrew Vann, Vice-Chancellor of Charles Sturt University attended the conference, a clear demonstration of the University’s support for the event, and also the respective schools broadly.
“Andrew’s presence was significant for the event. CSU, the accrediting body in relation to our degree programs, are genuine participants in the journey towards just, sustainable communities.”
“The motto of the University makes it clear: For the Common Good. Within that context, our school, and our colleagues in Islamic studies work to interpret our traditions in a way that is of benefit not just for religious people, but to society as a whole. We appreciate the University’s generous support of the event.”
Dr Rees confirmed that following the Peace Conference there have been several publications planned, and are now being pursued in order to allow for a widespread dissemination of the papers presented.
“At the end of the day, we (at United Theological College) are thrilled to say that there is a shared belief that this event must be continued into the future. If we can foster a conversation that focuses on the quest of religion for peaceful relations at the expense of parochialism, that will be of enormous benefit to all people, religious and non-religious alike.”