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Embracing our neighbours

THE desire to live in peace and goodwill with neighbours in local communities and around the world lies behind Interfaith September, a celebration established by the Uniting Church in Australia National Working Group on Relations with Other Faiths.

Beginning with Interfaith September Sunday on 2 September, Uniting Church congregations and other interested groups will select activities to complete throughout the month.

Participants will take a journey of reflection over the four weeks of September that traverses the September 11 anniversary of the World Trade Center bombing and the United Nations' International Day of Peace on 21 September and culminates with Interfaith Community Sunday on the last Sunday of the month.

At the recent 13th Assembly in Adelaide, the importance of helping Uniting Church congregations and members develop neighbourly relations with people in Australia's multicultural society who are shaped by other faiths was affirmed by the acceptance of the paper, "Friendship in the Presence of Difference: Christian Witness in Multifaith Australia". New study resources will be created drawing on the paper and commended to Presbyteries and congregations.

Rev Heather Griffin, Queensland representative on the Assembly Working Group on Relations with Other Faiths and secretary of the Queensland Synod Interfaith Relationships Committee, says that "Friendship in the Presence of Difference" was created in response to post-September 11 changes to the global and Australian context and goes further than the resource from the 9th Assembly in 2000, "Living with a Neighbour Who is Different".

"It is actually a very important biblical principle, "Thou shalt not bear false witness to thy neighbour,"' she says, "and it is just as important as the Biblical principle that we should hold fast to what we believe ourselves.

"This can be a blind spot for otherwise intelligent and well-educated people.

"It is important that we oppose things out of knowledge not out of fear."

For Interfaith September information and resources, visit www.assembly.uca.org.au/rof