It was a joy, as ever, to be able to host the first group of 2011 participants in the "Australia-Indonesia Muslim Leaders Exchange" at the Cardinal Knox Centre and St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne on Friday 25th March.

The Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission has always been happy to cooperate with the Islamic Council of Victoria in meeting with participants in the program. Over the years, we have met many inspiring and enthusiastic young Muslim leaders from Indonesia. This has enabled us to learn about aspects of Islam in Indonesia that are rarely reported in the media.


Each year, the Commonwealth Government through the Australia Indonesia Institute’s Australia-Indonesia Muslim Leaders Exchange Program (managed by the Islamic Council of Victoria in conjunction with the University of Melbourne) hosts small groups of young Indonesian Muslims for a study tour of Australia.

Over the years, a visit to the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission has become a regular part of their agenda. On Tuesday 1stJune, 2010, five members of the Commission and Catholic Interfaith Committee met with Mr Bayu Jatmiko, Mr Mi’rajurrahman and Mr Muhammad Irsyadul Ibad for a discussion lasting about an hour. They were accompanied by Mr Rusfi, a local Indonesian student who is also the Liaison Director of the Muslim Exchange Programme for the ICV. 


Following the comments by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, in Regensburg, Archbishop Hart felt a need personally to express his support for the Muslim community in Melbourne. This opportunity came at a meeting with local imams held on 2nd November, 2006, at the Office of the Australian Intercultural Society, an organisation which has been a dialogue partner of the Melbourne Archdiocese since 2000. Executive adviser of the AIS, Mr Orhan Cicek, organised the meeting, inviting Archbishop Hart to meet members of the AIS and other Muslim communities.
At the gathering Archbishop Hart said that the basis for our relationship is our common faith in the One God, the God of Abraham. It is this which characterises all our activities together. To allay all doubt, he wanted to declare publicly and clearly the commitment of the Catholic Church in Melbourne to the work of interreligious dialogue.

On the 18th November 2005, the Commission held its first meeting over lunch in the Thomas Carr Centre with Christians from churches commonly identified as “Pentecostal” or “Evangelical”.

These two Christian groupings are similar in many ways, but are not represented by any one institutional church and are rarely involved in mainstream ecumenical dialogue. In fact, the Catholic Church has no national dialogue with these groups, as it does with Anglicans, Lutherans and Uniting Christians.

It is also acknowledged that historically these Christians have made negative judgments about “the Church of Rome”, as we have of them. Nevertheless, international dialogues between the Vatican and these Protestant groups have shown that there is common ground between us. We share common ethical concerns on issues of life, family and marriage; common doctrinal convictions such as the authority of Scripture, the Virgin birth and bodily resurrection of Jesus; and common concern for evangelisation.

The purposes of these meetings will be to build bridges of understanding and cooperation, and to open doors for future relationships. Three more meetings are planned over the next 12 months.

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