David Schütz, Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission.
There was an unusual gathering on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Thursday 8 December) this year at the Catholic Leadership Centre in East Melbourne: the Annual Maryam Meal for Catholics and Muslims.
Mary – or “Maryam” as she is named in the Qur’an – is a point of commonality between Christians and Muslims. Both hold her in high regard for the sake of her son Jesus. Although we believe very different things about her son, and therefore about Mary herself, our scriptures both tell similar stories about her. Both tell the story of the Annunciation by the angel. Both affirm that her pregnancy was from God and not from man. Both affirm that she was a virgin. And both affirm that she was sinless – although Muslims hold that all their prophets (and indeed Mary is sometimes accorded that title) were sinless.
Over 100 people came to the dinner on Thursday night. The Maryam dinner is hosted each year by the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission and a prominent Turkish Muslim group called the Australian Intercultural Society. The EIC and the AIS have been in a relationship for over 15 years and we have come to know each other well.
This year the theme of the Maryam Dinner was “Overcoming Challenges faced by Women of Faith”, taking Mother Maryam as a role model. Our two guest speakers were Clara Geoghegan and Arzu Yilmaz. Sr Cheryl Camp rsm led them in conversation which covered such questions as
• what is it about Mary that inspires you and why?
• Which female figures have inspired you on your faith journey?
• What challenges have you faced as a woman of faith
• What changes do you see in your religious community that are impacting women or will impact women?
• What changes would you like to see for women in your religious community?
In the near future we hope to make available a link to the video of this discussion on YouTube, where you will be able to hear the answers that our speakers gave to these questions.
If you would like to be a part of future interfaith activities like the Catholic and Muslim Maryam Meal, please email David Schütz
, executive officer for the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission, and ask to be put on his mailing list.