On Wednesday 26th March 2014, Gippsland Interfaith in conjunction with the Gippsland Ethic Communities Council (GECC) conducted the first Talking Faith Program in Traralgon Library.  Titled “People of the Book” the program presented a panel of Gippsland based Muslims (from the Gippsland Australian Muslim Community Inc – GAMCI, and the United Muslim Sisters of the Latrobe Valley - UMSLV) and Mormons (from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – LDS, Moe) discussing a range of everyday issues based around their religious beliefs. 

Talking Faith - Gippsland Interfaith

Talking Faith Program - Back Row: Tanveer Hasan (President, GAMCI), Dr Yousef Ahmed (GAMCI), Dr Zafar Iqbal (Vice President GAMCI, and local Imam), Bishop Rohner (LDS Moe), Chelsea Emery (LDS Moe), Winston Doherty (LDS Moe), David Cray (LDS), Dr Christine Lee (Vice Chairman GECC), J Murray Lobley (Chairman GECC-Gippsland Interfaith).
Front Row: Ron Pollard (GECC-Gippsland Interfaith), Khatija Halabi (President UMSLV)

The “Talking Faiths Program” was adapted from those successfully conducted in metropolitan Melbourne by the City of Greater Dandenong Interfaith Network.  The program was advertised throughout the Latrobe Valley Libraries, where the public was invited to ask questions of the Muslim and Mormon faiths, and place these in a box for discussion.  The questions were then collated and asked of the panel on the night.  No further questions were allowed from the audience to the panel but could be followed up individually on the conclusion of the night. 

The evening was introduced by Murray Lobley, the Chairman of Gippsland Interfaith and in attendance were members of the Gippsland Ethic Communities Council (GECC), the Latrobe Valley Libraries and over fifty members of the Gippsland community.   

The questions which were asked via the Library boxes concerned such diverse matters as the role and importance of families in both faiths; what happens after death; whether the religions acknowledge other faiths; and how food is prepared.  While there are obviously a number of differences between the two faiths, the overwhelming consensus to come from the evening was that there are many similarities between the Muslim and Mormon religions.  A conclusion reached was that we should look at the commonalities between the faiths rather than focus on differences.  Examples were raised showing how the Muslims and Mormons had in fact worked together on humanitarian projects both at a local and international level.

The night concluded with refreshments and a chance for more discussion to take place between members of both religions and the wider Gippsland Community.  Murray Lobely then extended thanks to the panel members who voluntarily gave up their time to represent their faiths and to Claire Wood from the Traralgon Library.  Gippsland Interfaith is looking at holding other types of talking faith dialogues and extending this program to other wider areas of Gippsland.

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