ISRA’s annual Studies of Religion in Focus Conference this year was held on 4 March 2016, at the Mecure Hotel, Sydney. The Conference was attended by around 130 Studies of Religion teachers from various New South Wales schools. The theme of the conference was Living Religious Traditions in the 21st Century.
Assoc. Professor Mehmet Ozalp from ISRA presented the keynote address, discussing many significant aspects of ancient texts and the lessons to be learnt from them in contemporary society. He focused on accepting natural theology, service and responsibility as a means of expecting a reward solely from God.
The Scriptural Reasoning panel consisted of Sandy Hollis representing Judaism, Rosemary King representing Christianity and Sheikh Wesam Charkawi representing Islam. The topic was Ancient texts for a Contemporary World. The Abrahamic faiths explored themes of leadership, truth, gratitude, solidarity and hospitality found in their texts, all being key to maintaining community relations and fostering social cohesion in future generations for all ages. Confirmed by all three faiths was the main idea that the ancient texts serve to guide mankind to an enlightened continuous relationship with God and each other.
Workshops were then held on each of the three faiths discussing the significant person/school of thought component of the HSC syllabus. The presenters discussed how to analyse the contribution of significant people, which teachers found informative, useful and stimulating.
Teachers then chose one of three workshops that were held simultaneously. Martina Cooper described how to help students stand out in their HSC, Helen Smith discussed the deeper insights in the 2 Unit Course Religion and Peace and Tara Carlewis discussed interfaith dialogue, ecumenism and reconciliation.
All workshops were received well by teachers who provide overwhelmingly positive feedback and gratitude for such a useful conference.
The day finished with reflections and five lucky people winning lucky door prizes!