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August 25, 2014
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How do the traditional 'creation stories' of the world’s great religions engage with the 21st century story of the evolution of the universe? This is a question that needs to be part of the conversation in all religious traditions. Fundamentalist responses just don’t work in this scientific age.
The Journey of the Universe is a film that helps this discussion along. On Thursday evening 7th August, 140 people from different faiths gathered in the Mitchell Theatre in Sydney to watch the film and address this question. The Emmy Award winning documentary sparked much discussion.
Conversations reflected on how greater knowledge of science changes perceptions of traditional religious 'creation stories'. Described as an epic story of cosmic, earth and human transformation the film is presented by Brian Swimme, who collaborates with Mary Evelyn Tucker from Yale University’s Forum on Religion and Ecology.
The word “awesome”, so commonly parleyed around, is truly to be used when contemplating the evolution of the whole of life. When we look at things on a cosmic scale we humans are put in our proper place. We ask, Why are we here? It is clear that as a species, we have been destructive yet we have the ability to be so creative. The film’s approach enabled responses from many different perspectives and encouraged dialogue amongst the different faiths represented.
Following the show Maria Maguire, a community educator, inspired the audience to share their first reactions to the film. Teachers from five major religions spoke briefly about how the new knowledge of the origin of the universe is leading to changing understandings of their traditional scriptural teaching. The teachers were Venerable Tejadhammo Bhikku (Buddhist), Reverend Professor Dean Drayton (Christian), Dr Meenakshri Srinivasan (Hindu), Rabbi Paul Lewin (Jewish) and Mr Mehmet Ozalp (Muslim).
One young man also commented, “I think the highlight was mixing science and religion so cohesively". "It’s great that the ecological message is getting out to a wider community," said another.
Gill Burrows shared her insight, "It was good to have an audience from different traditions, given the opportunity to meet and converse. We will only advance and survive together."
The film screening was hosted by the Faith Ecology Network (FEN). FEN is an Australian interfaith network of people committed to their faith traditions and to caring for the earth.
Anne Lanyon, Co-ordinator of FEN and Co-ordinator for the Columban Centre for Peace, Ecology and Justice (PEJ) said, "It was wonderful to see people from different faiths come together to learn from this fantastic film, to be filled with wonder at the mind boggling complexity of life in all its forms and to see the drastic impact the human species is having on the 'blue dot' in the universe, Earth.
We need to change our attitudes. We hope and trust that this will kick start more of these gatherings across the country and lead to positive creative actions by, in and between faith communities."
Watch highlights from the event:
Centre for Peace, Ecology and Justice
Columban Mission Institute
167 Albert Rd Strathfield NSW 2135
PO Box 2002 Strathfield NSW 2135
Phone: (02) 9352 8021
Fax: (02) 9746 8033