Day of Dialogue

Day of Dialogue at Sion with students from many different schools and faithsIn today’s context, there can be a lot of suspicion and mistrust of the other, and so opportunities for interfaith dialogue are more important than ever. On Tuesday 29 August, Year 10 students from a number of Victorian colleges, of a range of faith backgrounds, came together at Our Lady of Sion College in Box Hill to share their beliefs and traditions, and engage with one another in a discussion of their faith.

Participating schools were: Ilim College, Dallas (Islamic); Minaret College, Springvale (Islamic); Sirius College, Keysborough (students from a variety of religious backgrounds, but with a strong Islamic community); Mt Scopus Memorial College, Burwood (Jewish); Marist–Sion College, Warragul (Catholic); Catholic College Sale (Catholic); and Our Lady of Sion College, Box Hill (Catholic).

Filing into the auditorium, students naturally sat with peers from their own school, but were soon asked by student leader Georgia Drake to stand and reshuffle among the rows so that on each side of them was someone not from their own school. It set a tone for the day – students weren’t just here to get to know someone new but also someone of a faith they might not have encountered before.

‘I haven’t really mingled with people of other faiths before, and today was a great opportunity for us, coming from a rural setting,’ said Chloe of Catholic College Sale.

‘It was interesting getting a first-hand account of people’s religions, rather than just studying texts, and getting to hear what people like about their own faiths,’ said Shani of Mt Scopus College.

Students were divided into small groups with representatives from the participating schools in each. Each group was given a series of discussion questions to explore, ranging from describing a typical day at school to exploring students’ impressions of God.

‘I was glad to clear up the misconceptions I had about other people’s religions, and enjoyed learning about everyone else and becoming a more tolerant and understanding person,’ said Mulki of Ilim College.

‘Something I really enjoyed was that after we finished the dialogue cards, we started talking about how different races will start mixing together over time as different generations become more used to one another, and racism will die out,’ said Patrick of Marist–Sion College.

Following the first round of discussion, students were invited to watch three videos, asking some of the tough questions of each religion and hearing from students about how they would answer those questions.

‘I really enjoyed the You Can’t Ask That videos,’ said Kristina from Our Lady of Sion College, ‘they were informative but also amusing at the same time.’

‘It was great talking to other people about the similarities between our school and faith and other schools that practice different faiths,’ said Saad of Sirius College.

The day concluded with a second round of small group dialogue where students were invited to ‘go deeper’ into the exploration of their beliefs and faith, and finally concluded with a large group photo.

'I really enjoyed exploring other people’s religions,’ said Numair of Minaret College, ‘It was a great experience.’