19 June 2008: Interfaith education initiatives at Australian Catholic University (ACU) are helping counter religious stereotypes and intolerance among school children.Currently developing new curriculum materials with five Muslim teachers and five Catholic teachers, to break down religious stereotypes and intolerance, ACU Religious Education Lecturer Associate Professor Kath Engebretson is also researching successful interfaith education involving the range of religions in Australian society.
The curriculum project is jointly funded by ACU, the Australian Intercultural Foundation and the Catholic Education Office of Melbourne. It involves the University’s Australian Pacific Centre for Inter-Religious Dialogue (APCID).
“Bullying among Australian children in the wake of international terrorist events, over things they have no control over and which represent their religion in the most terrible way, is unfair and unjust,” said Associate Professor Engebretson, who coordinates Victorian activities of the APCID.
“It is important to learn about each other’s religions as much as possible. Australia is such a profoundly multicultural society, with so many religions, that if we are going to be a socially cohesive society, we need to critically examine the stereotypes we hold about religions that are different from our own.
“I have always been interested in dialogue between faiths, because there is far more that unites us than divides us. Our religions share a common faith in the transcendent, that there’s a world beyond us beyond the reaches of our senses, a world of a good and loving transcendent being.”
ACU has the largest and most academically qualified cohort of religious education experts in Australia, respected internationally.
In a related project, The Transformative Possibility of Interfaith Education, Associate Professor Engebretson would like to hear from any teachers who have experienced success developing interfaith education and dialogue including between students with from all religious backgrounds. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.