Communities and their leaders take many different forms. Here at St Andrew’s College, we have a community full of young university students, navigating study and the cultural, sporting and social opportunities that College thrives on. On Monday 21 August, St Andrew’s College hosted a premiere interfaith dialogue panel titled ‘Step into my world: Perspectives on faith, leadership and community’. This event aimed to engage the students in differing perspectives of how faith and philosophy can be drawn upon when establishing leadership qualities and how we can encourage diversity within our community. Sitting on the panel were members of varying faiths and backgrounds: Rabbi Benji Levy – Dean of Jewish Life & Learning at Moriah College; Erica Hamence – Assistant Minister at St Barnabas Anglican Church Broadway; Tim Dean – philosopher and science writer at the School of life; Soner Coruhlu – Senior lecturer at Auburn Gallipoli Mosque, Bonnyrigg Mosque, Blacktown Mosque and Merrylands Mosque.
This diverse panel answered questions that explored qualities of leadership, how faith/philosophy informs their beliefs, negotiation of differences within a diverse community, navigation of the misuse of inspirational texts and its justification for harm, and whether our personal beliefs should inform our views and choices within the public sphere. The humorous panel presented their thoughts on the questions thrown to them with great clarity, with the overall conclusion drawn to unity within differences. Some memorable moments included Rabbi Benji on the topic of making difficult decisions and change, when faced with indifference or force- “Values are like bread and wine. You need both. The freshness of the bread, the seize the moment when change is needed and to make it happen, or it becomes stale. And you need the seasoned age of the wine, to build upon tradition and history”. Erica Hamence commented on when change is met with hatred or defence: “You need something, a rubric or belief, something that equips you to meet hatred with love. I hold up the example of Jesus, who shows us through the life that he lived, when he faced his enemies didn’t fight them but gave his life for them. For me that is the circuit breaker.” ‘Step into my world’ was a wonderful success, with some intriguing queries and thoughts that were asked in the concluding question time. Hopefully this discussion of faith and philosophy may continue to stimulate more ideas on how we can provide informed yet personal leadership practices.
– Bethany Cottee (fr 2014, current resident and Taylor Scholar 2017)