Interim evaluation report: 2007 International Conference


Messages of greeting and well wishes were received from the following:

Most Rev Dr. Phillip Aspinall, Primate of Australia
Most Rev Dr. Peter Jensen, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney
George Cardinal Pell, Catholic Archbishop of Sydney
Clover Moore MP, Lord Mayor of Sydney
Mr. David Knoll, President, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies
Mr. Jim Mein, Moderator, the Uniting Church in Australia, NSW Synod
Mrs. Rosalind Fishl, President, The Great Synagogue, Sydney
Bishop John Dew, Archbiship of Wellington & Metropolitan of New Zealand
Most. Rev John Battersby, Arbishop of Brisbane
Bishop Dennis Hart, Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne
Jeffrey B. Kamins, Senior Rabbi Emanuel Synagogue (Sydney) Chair, Council of Progressive Rabbis of Australia, Asia and New Zealand who said:

Humans face tremendous challenges in the 21st century: preserving our physical environment and more so, developing a society that provides for individual integrity and freedom and communal justice and peace.
In terms of these challenges, religion plays a major role in both the fractiousness of society and its potential healing. Religion tends to be triumphalist, particularistic and competitive, but this can be changed when tradition is interpreted and applied for a new era.
May this conference progress the crucial work of dialogue, demonstrating that there are many valid ways of religious expression that can work in harmony for the benefit of humanity and the planet we share.
Greetings and thank you for your work and vision.”

Conference Theme

The conference theme, Healing a Fractured Earth: Faiths working together attracted 165 participants and speakers from all round the world including North America, Poland, South America, UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Israel, Bangladesh and Christchurch.

Leading interfaith protagonists including Sydney Great Synagogue’s Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence, Melbourne’s Rabbi John Levi, Charles Sturt University’s Professor James Haire, London’s Leo Baeck College Emeritus Professor Rabbi Jonathan Magonet, Ethnic Affairs Commission Chairman Stepan Kerkyasharian, the Uniting Church NSW Moderator Jim Mein and Manchester’s (and former Temple Emanuel Chief Minister) Rabbi Brian Fox were joined in a series of panel presentations and workshops by the Board of Deputies’ Vic Alhadeff and Josh Levin, AIDC’s Jeremy Jones, former ADC chairman, Paul Gardner and Shalom College Director of Adult Education, Peta Jones Pellach.

The New Zealand Council was represented by leading names including Archbishop Dew of Wellington, Professor Paul Morris and well-known educator, Jean Holm. The Conference was co-hosted by the Australian and New Zealand Councils. Said Australian chairman, Henry Mendelson: In an eventful and topic-crammed 3½ day program, a wide ranging examination has been possible of the many aspects of the Council’s work and the challenges which lie ahead.

Panels and workshops for delegate discussion

Presentations were given by a series of panels and 24 workshops covering ethical, ecological and historical topics. With the exception of the keynote address, given by Rabbi Raymond Apple on the topic of “The healing of rifts between religions in a multicultural society”, all the conference sessions provided opportunities for questions and discussion by those attending.

Panel speakers and workshop participants included Uruguay’s Bishop Louis del Castillo, Boston College’s Philip Cunningham, Townsville’s Bishop Michael Putney, the ABC’s Rachael Kohn, Journalist and Pratt Founation CEO Sam Lipski, Professor Golam Dastagir of the University of Dakar, historian, Suzanne Rutland, Jerusalem’s Deborah Weissman and New York based Tannenbaum Centre’s Judith Banki.

A particular emphasis of the conference was placed on the indigenous nation of Australia with special aboriginal ceremonies and tutorials. In addition, delegates toured the Sydney Jewish Museum, the Aboriginal Catholic Centre at LaPerouse, St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Great Synagogue. Additional opportunities were provided for delegates to attend an Opera Australia performance at the Sydney Opera House and to tour the nearby Blue Mountains area.

“It was of course vital that the organisation comes to grips with the many pressing issues which face our world today in the area of interfaith relations”‘ Mendelson added. “The many participating high-profile speakers from both overseas and from Australasia tackled these issues, seeking to provide answers to some of the many problematic questions facing today’s modern world.”

Official opening welcomed by Aboriginal smoking ceremony

The conference was officially opened by H E the Governor of New South Wales, Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO who enjoined the delegates to enter into dialogue with each other with a view to meaningful outcomes. She pointedly referred to the strong contingent of young people — students from New Zealand, Victoria and New South Wales who had been sponsored to attend the conference. The group, totalling over 30 from Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths, took an active part in the conference and at its conclusion announced its decision to form a Youth Group offshoot named Young Abrahamic Leadership Council of Australasia (YALCA) The conference delegates were welcomed by a traditional aboriginal smoking ceremony which was followed by a music and dance presentation by a well-known indigenous group.

The main ICCJ conference was preceded by an ICCJ Women’s conference attended by 22 women. Over the first day an aboriginal woman, Elsie Heiss led the group in looking at our stories through the healing elements of Earth, Water and Fire. The Shabbat was celebrated and the Book of Ruth was studied together with Deborah Weissman and Sr Mary Reaburn.

Next year the ICCJ conference will be held in Jerusalem in late June. Particular efforts will be made to sponsor our young people to attend.

Young Abrahamic Leadership Council of Australasia (YALCA)

One of the high points of last month’s International Council of Christians and Jews global conference in Sydney was the participation by the younger generation contingent which announced on the closing evening of the conference the establishment of YALCA. The new group has already posted its existence on the internet at It invites participation and support on the fledgling website which portrays its objectives and structure projections for the future.

With a distinct aim to maintain the trans-Tasman relationship, the new group says it aims to undertake programs which respect the differences of the three faiths and build on relationships. It has expressed impatience with the wordiness of its elders and stresses it “wants to do something” to achieve real dialogue as opposed to formal monologues, at the same time demonstrating that religions can work together to achieve social justice.

The group went on to stress that while its focus is “clearly and fully” tri-lateral it suggests that its formation may well represent the first steps in moving the focus of the Council of Christians and Jews to a three-faiths forum. It aims for discussion for the 2008 conference for greater inclusion of youth in the mainstream.

Addressing one of the Youth Workshops at the conference Victorian Council president and Vice Chairman of the Australian Council of Christians and Jews, Bill Clancy said: “You are wise beyond your years and we are grateful that you have come, and are welcome in our mainstream”.

Each session of the conference, including the opening ceremony began with the following acknowledgement:

We gather today on the traditional land of the Gadigal Clan of the Eora Nation.
The Land where we meet is a place where civilisation far older than white settlement in Australia
developed, grew and flourished.
We respect the traditional owners of the Land and honour them.