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Tuesday, 29 June 2021 18:47

Love Dialogues aim to break down barriers


Fr Thien Nguyen Love Dialogues2 550By Debra Vermeer

A new series of online video conversations featuring people of different faiths and belief systems aims to broaden the scope of interfaith dialogue.

Fr Thien Nguyen SVD, who is part of the initiative, says each of the conversations focuses on the basic, unifying exploration of one key topic – love – as lived and expressed by those being interviewed.

“It came about because we had an idea that any form of dialogue, especially interfaith dialogue, should be based on love,” Fr Thien says.

“In the past, interfaith dialogue hasn’t always worked because people come from different beliefs and systems, so at times it becomes divisive, rather than unifying.

“We thought if we put love as the foundation we can break through some of those barriers.”

Fr Thien and his interfaith collaborators in Melbourne applied for a grant from the Maroondah City Council aimed at projects that promote well-being.

The series of filmed conversations focus on love, gratitude, forgiveness, hope and trust.

“These themes are important for people, especially so in Melbourne, where we have experienced a number of extended COVID lockdowns,” he says.

The initiative was put in place by a steering committee of five people, including two Catholics, one former policeman and interfaith specialist, the Chair of the Interfaith Network of the Maroondah Uniting Church and one member from the Temple Society.

Each of the themes is explored through interviews with various people.

Fr Thien shares his own story in the videos, exploring his life as a young person in Vietnam during the war and his journey to priesthood and ministry in Australia with the Divine Word Missionaries in the area of interfaith.

Love Dialogues 550Sr Corrie van den Bosch, a Missionary Sister of Service who is also a part of a local interfaith network is also interviewed, along with others, including the Rev Professor Philip Hughes of the Uniting Church. They are presented by Norm Currie.

“We talk about our personal experiences of love,” Fr Thien says. “We explore the idea of looking at interfaith dialogue through the prism of ‘From Love, to Love, with Love’.”

The interviews have been posted on the Maroondah Interfaith Network website, as well as the Janssen Spirituality website, and have received more than 5000 hits each.

“They seem to be going well. I’ve had a few calls thanking me for the videos and for sharing my experiences. And at a recent interfaith dinner, a number of people said they’d seen the videos and they thanked us for doing them,” Fr Thien says.

“We’re now moving forward with more in-depth interviews with heads of different faith communities and people in different professions.

“And we’ve developed a website called Love Dialogues and a podcast as well as a series of Love Dialogue seminars.”

Fr Thien says the initiative came about after more than two years of reflection at the local interfaith level.

“We asked ourselves how could we dialogue with people of different faiths but also people of no faith?” he says.

“The answer that is common to everyone is love – love is the one.

“We believe that interfaith dialogue is a dialogue of life, action, intellectuality and spirituality. And the Dialogue of Love encompasses all of this.”


TOP RIGHT: Fr Thien Nguyen SVD is interviewed on the 'Love Dialogues'.

BOTTOM LEFT: Sr Corrie van den Bosch MSS with interviewer Norm Currie.