Multifaith conference coming to Bendigo

DELEGATES: Local and international members of the Association of Chaplains. Picture: ANDI YU

DELEGATES: Local and international members of the Association of Chaplains. Picture: ANDI YU

Bendigo has been chosen to be the host city for a multifaith conference for university chaplains from across the world.

A delegation from the International Association of Chaplains in Higher Education visited Bendigo on Tuesday to plan for the 2016 conference which will bring more than 300 chaplains to Bendigo from Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America.

The delegates were all Christian chaplains but the organisation's chairwoman Cass Howes said her organisation was a multifaith body, and, come 2016, there would be university chaplains of all faiths converging in Bendigo.

Ms Howes said she was aware of recent debate in Bendigo surrounding the planned mosque and that the conference would be an opportunity for chaplains to share their experiences of similar situations in their home countries.

She said she and others might be able to "bring some common sense" to the issue.

"I created the first ever multifaith chaplaincy team in the UK," she said.

She said university chaplains had taken the lead in the "inclusive phenomenon" of faith gatherings around the world. "How do you say that one faith is better than another?" she said.

Ms Howes said there might be a workshop at the conference about "how faiths get on together and what they can learn from each other".

Trish Blanks is the Bendigo-based organiser for the conference.

She said all faiths in Bendigo would be invited to come to the conference, including the Muslim community. 

"Heri (Febriyanto, the spokesman for the Bendigo Muslim community) and I are good mates," Ms Blanks said.

City of Greater Bendigo councillor Rod Fyffe said the 2016 event would be an opportunity for Bendigo to be on the "international stage" again.

He said it was a chance for Bendigo to show that it was "open-minded" and "receptive". "We will bend over backwards to make sure they enjoy their stay," he said. The international conference for university chaplains is held every four years and locations are chosen carefully. 

Bendigo was chosen for its culturally diverse history, good accommodation and strong chaplaincy team.

The conference will be held at La Trobe University.

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