On the 10th of March, 2017, the annual Studies of Religion in Focus ISRA conference was held at the Mercure in Central. The conference encompassed a number of workshops aimed at assisting year 11 and 12 Studies of Religion teachers to facilitate enhanced learning of the topics and content delivery.
The conference was kicked off by a profound and thought provoking keynote address by Father David Ranson, who discussed the human condition in the age of technology and globalisation and the relevance of religion in the modern world. He began by painting a vivid picture of the modern world, describing the 20th and 21st century as ages of anxiety as waves of war and migrations resulted in a radical shift in world demographics. He described the positive ways migrants and migrations change nations both economically and culturally but explained that these changes are sometimes portrayed in “politically divisive” ways.
Father Ranson illustrated that in addition to mass migration, modernity has seen a shift in how people live in a society, noting that single households are on the rise. He explained that at the centre of consciousness in a world of loneliness and disconnectedness is a need for sanity. Father Ranson argued that the relevance of religion in the world today is its ability to provide sanity through story telling. The stories of religious traditions are stories of patience, persistence, and beauty, and they give people both hope and a feeling of connectedness with other human beings.
Father Ranson’s speech was followed by a series of workshops discussing five major world religions: Hinduism, presented by Rev Rosemary King; Buddhism, presented by Thubten Chokyi; Judaism, presented by Sandy Hollis and Pam Tatz; Christianity, taught by Peter Foran; and Islam, covered by Dawud Ilham. The Year 11 Preliminary Course for each of the mentioned religions were covered in separate workshops, allowing teachers to attend the classes most relevant to the classes they teach. Workshops addressing the variability within the religions were also held for the three Abrahamic faiths, allowing teachers to delve deeper into the content.
A workshop aimed at helping teachers enhance their students’ essay writing skills was facilitated by Helen Smith and Live Classroom Demonstrations involving current students were presented by Caitlin Solomonides.
The workshops linked the principles of the religions being discussed to the school syllabus, illustrating to teachers how to teach the subject material in a way that is both easy to learn and meaningful in everyday life. Peter Foran highlighted this point by stating that the syllabus itself states the importance of bringing the study of religion closer to its adherents.
The Conference was highly successful, with many positive comments about the relevance of the conference to the content and classroom.
ISRA thanks the partners of the event and looks forward to the SoR In-Focus Conference 2018!