A Mein contribution
When former NSW ACT Moderator Jim Mein retired from the Synod’s Relationships with Other Faiths Reference Group, this marked the end of more than a decade’s contribution to one of the church’s important ecumenical bodies.
For Jim Mein, interfaith work is one of his passions.
“In so doing, we inspire each other with greater interfaith understanding, contribute to world peace by developing relationship bridges and working together for community harmony and social inclusion,” he said.
He recalled that this passion was sparked during the 2005 Cronulla Riots, where he witnessed Islamaphobic comments, along with subsequent “discrimination, racism, and [the] community-destructive blaming of Muslims” for the burning of a Uniting Church Hall in Auburn.
“The interfaith and ecumenical responses were amazing,” he said.
Over more than 15 years, he would work tirelessly as part of the Synod’s Relationships With Other Faiths Reference Group. Since November 2004, the reference group has worked to help inform the Uniting Church about the importance of interfaith work, and how to go about this.
Mr Mein shared with Insights a number of highlights from his tenure. Among others, these included:
- Addressing the International Conference of the Council of Christians and Jews as well as moderating their first plenary discussion in 2007.
- Interfaith study tours of Turkey in 2007 and Israel and Palestine in 2017.
- Initiating the annual Uniting Church and Affinity Intercultural Foundation dinners with Ahmet Polat and being each organising Committee since they began.
- Being a member of Affinity’s Advisory Board for some eight years.
- The groundbreaking dialogue between the Synod and the Jewish Board of Deputies which began in 2015.
- Attending the G20 Interfaith Discussion in Federal Parliament House in 2018 as one of two Uniting Church representatives.
In 2010, Mr Mein was awarded Membership of the Order of Australia. Promotion of interfaith dialogue was the second of four parts of his citation.
“My passion is for community harmony and social inclusion in Australia, coupled with community understanding that Australians can unify as one and still be culturally, ethnically and religiously diverse,” he said.
“In addition, being multicultural is a starting point. What has to be achieved is to be cross-and inter-cultural. Community and especially parliamentary leaders are from understanding that as the goal of multiculturalism.”
Stewart Mills is Secretary of the Reference Group. He told Insights that Mr Mein had been a “driving force” during his time with the group.
“He is an extraordinary diplomat and storyteller,” Mr Mills said.
“He brought gravitas, humour and wisdom. He is a man of deep faith and has a strong love for community and social harmony. We will sorely miss him, and his wife Gill (who would often attend events) from the group. We wish him well as he continues his work with the Order of Australia.”
NSW and ACT Synod’s current Moderator Simon Hansford said that Mr Mein had “helped to lead our church into that “middle space” where we are so often called by Christ to be present.
“.It is the space where hospitality leads to conversation, and conversation to engagement, engagement to action, and action to change, then to reconciliation and life. Jim has been – as he always is – an articulate advocate, an informed participant and an honest student of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus in relationship with others whose faith speaks and sings in different ways. Jim has served our church well, and all those involved in this ministry.”
For more information on the NSW and ACT Synod Relationships With Other Faiths Reference Group, visit the official webpage here.