What are a Jew, a Muslim, and a Christian doing having a coffee together at the Botanical Gardens in Wellington? Those who watch television ads will have noticed a recent Kiwibank advertisement featuring just that.
How did this come about?
Dave Moskovitz, Sultan Eusoff and Fr Ron Bennett are members of the Wellington Abrahamic Council of Jews, Christians and Muslims. Its name comes from the fact that all three faiths have Abraham as a common ancestor in their religious tradition.
The aim of the group is to overcome the evils of prejudice, intolerance and discrimination between people of different religions and ethnicities, and to foster understanding, friendship and trust between the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Group members do this first of all by just being together and listening to one another. The group seeks to educate itself, but also the wider community. It does this in a variety of ways. One is to see what the three faiths have in common, their common heritage, and appreciate one another’s distinctive beliefs and practices.
Public meetings are held several times a year on contemporary issues, as viewed through the eyes of each faith tradition. Recent presentations have been on such topics are mercy, inequality, peace and reconciliation, holy days, fasting. Each year, a day of shared meditation is held. There is also a monthly scriptural meeting, where themes such as fasting, holiness, caring, sacrifice, prayer, revelation, are discussed, through individuals sharing their understanding of the meaning of relevant passages from the scriptures of their tradition.
For Fr Bennett, being a member of this group with other Christians is very much part of Catholic teaching. For example: “The Catholic Church embraces with hope the commitment to ecumenism as a duty of the Christian conscience enlightened by faith and guided by love, Jesus himself, at the hour of his Passion, prayed ‘that they may all be one’ (Jn 17:21). This unity, which the Lord has bestowed on his Church and in which he wishes to embrace all people, is not something added on, but stands at the very heart of Christ’s mission. Nor is it some secondary attribute of the community of his disciples. Rather, it belongs to the very essence of this community.”- Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint, 1995.
“I would encourage sincere and trustful dialogue between Jews and Christians, for only in this way will it be possible to arrive at a shared interpretation of disputed historical questions, and, above all, to make progress towards a theological evaluation of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity.” – Pope Benedict XVI, Address in Cologne Synagogue, August 19, 2005.
“It is my ardent hope that Muslim and Christian religious leaders and teachers will present our two great religious communities as communities in respectful dialogue, never more as communities in conflict”- Pope John Paul II, Meeting with Muslim Leaders in Omayyad Great Mosque, Damascus, May 6, 2001.
When the film crew and producer met with Mr Moskovitz, Mr Eusoff, and Fr Bennett, they had tentatively decided on the theme “respect” as the title for the photo, but when they saw the three interacting, they changed it to “understanding”, as the latter seemed to have a deeper meaning.
To know more about the Wellington Abrahamic Council, Google the name, or go to https://abrahamic.nz There can be found more information, including forthcoming events, an opportunity to join or subscribe, publications, and a contact to learn more from.