Many Faiths, One People: Y7 tour of places of worship in Greater Dandenong
This was one of those once in a lifetime experiences: visiting and listening in-depth to a Rabbi, Yakkov Glasman, at the synagogue of the Hebrew St Kilda Congregation; a personal assistant to the Sikh temple, Ms Gagandeep Kaur; a Buddhist abbot, the Venerable Muruthamru Pannaloka and an Imam, Professor Ismet Purdic at the Bosnia & Herzegovina Islamic Mosque.
It was a huge day for our students, leaving from the School at 6:30 am (some travelling from Bairnsdale at 5:30 am) and returning at 7pm. Judging from the reaction at Parent Teacher Night, it was heartily approved of and awaited with keen expectation. The picture summarises it all: totally absorbing…so much to learn.
Was it worth the time and effort? Certainly. ‘Religion’ comes basically from two Latin words: religare “to bind fast” and relegere “go through again” (in reading or in thought). As we progressed through the long day, the talks seemed to meld together, and a common thought possessed us all: the importance of love, of community, of belonging, of heritage—causing us to think again about what it is that fundamentally binds all human beings together.
The chanting of the Koran passage for the day (our last stop) was particularly poignant and reminded me of that deeply moving evening in the Great Hall of Sydney University when the People of the Book—Jews, Muslims and Christians—met on common ground to grieve for those who had died of cancer. I will never forget the young Muslim boy who sang our common grief: it literally pierced the heart.
This tour is absolutely foundational for the RAVE (Religious and Values Education) curriculum and will hopefully become a permanent feature of the Year 7 course.
Etty Hillesum, a cultural Jew deeply endowed with such a strong personal faith that she gave everyone on the train to Auschwitz courage to sing, observes in her Diary written in 12 exercise books (1941-1943):
There is a really deep well inside me. And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there too. But more often stones and grit block the well, and God is buried beneath. Then He must be dug out again. (26 August 1941)
Etty’s manner of speaking about God is never formal: she speaks from her own experience. And that is as it should be—something this tour aspires to. A huge thank you to staff who were such a great support on the day; and what a day it was!
Head of RAVE