The Faith Communities Council of Victoria is the peak interfaith body in Victoria, Australia. Its website is a go-to place for all (or almost all) that is happening in faiths in Victoria. Each year, on a Sunday afternoon in November, FCCV holds a wonderful interfaith conference: Victorian Interfaith Networks Conference (VINC).
The conference is a wonderful opportunity for meeting people. There are speakers and performances and - most importantly - wonderful food and stalls. The conference moves around. It has always been held in a Melbourne local government area, going to a different area each year.
2017 breaks this Melbourne-focussed circuit. For the very first time, the Victorian Interfaith Networks Conference leaves Melbourne and goes to regional Victoria as it travels to the historic gold mining city of Bendigo.
The reason for the Bendigo conference is not merely to do something different from previous years. For those who are unaware, there has been a great battle (now quietened) in Bendigo over the building of a mosque. This blog won't go into all the details of this because it does not wish to give publicity to organisations, personalities, and events surrounding widespread community antagonism to the mosque.
However, the anti-mosque forces were overcome by equally determined Bendigo citizens who refused to have their city become a place of bigotry and sectarianism. Two significant things occurred more or less at the same time. A Facebook site under the title of Believe in Bendigo appeared and a local business woman, Margot Spalding, emerged as a leader for the positive forces in an antagonistic community debate. (A sidenote to this is that, through Margot's initiative, the author of this blog and Margot became friends.) Once Margot went public with her views, it seemed that the temperature of community antagonism decreased by a few degrees.
Is there an active interfaith organisation in your community? They can be so interesting. Variety can be the spice of life and mixing in interfaith circles can provide plenty of spice and opportunities for most interesting friendships abound.
Photo from the Bendigo Advertiser