A (Very) Human Friendship Walk

The Jewish Christian Muslim Association (JCMA) ‘Friendship Walk’ is some title. Yet, an opportunity for such a venture is something I couldn’t miss. Besides I like walking and am a curious person by nature.

To seek, to read, to enquire, to further your knowledge, is a tenet that is promulgated by Islam. This friendship walk was a small journey that with its potentiality worked on so many levels.

In the context of what we see all too often in the media with reports on violence and anti-Mosque protests, which are grounded in misunderstandings and misconceptions. Our instincts ‘tell’ us; while our Fitrah reminds us, that all we want is the simplicity of living a good life.

We as a people, share so much in common. A walk, a conversation, a handshake, a smile, a greeting and curiosity for one another’s experiences was shared on this day. This is consciousness at work. Getting out of your comfort zone takes you to your comfort zone, this zoning is better known as understanding the unfamiliar. To realise that we have more in common; than not. Through the act of walking, the ordinary becomes something extraordinary through the amalgamation of commonalities. Put simply, we are all so different yet, paradoxically so similar to each other. Walking is an adjunct to understanding our common ground.

It started at St. Peter’s Hill, Anglican Church, Gisborne Street, East Melbourne. An intimate space with vaulted ceilings and warm austerity. With an introduction by Father Hugh Kempster, proceedings began by asking people to greet one another in proximity to each other. It was the perfect icebreaker. Warmth engulfed the space. Introductions of key persons were made and a speech by the Victorian Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Robin Scott, showed his service to the public is sincere, relevant, to the socio political acceptance of these great faiths as central to a multicultural, vibrant Melbourne. A short prayer for peace was made and the walk thereof began.

We then headed down Albert Street to the East Melbourne Hebrew Congregation Synagogue. It was a space that as central focus, faced the Holy Torah. Like an auditorium, the space was oval shaped, with a mezzanine seating terrace facing the centre of the room. The Rabbi David Gutnick expressed his greetings to the audience, telling us the history of the community, and how it thrived in Melbourne. With a violin, Jewish humour, a dance broke out with the audience laughing, smiling and clapping in tandem. We then left the Synagogue with a feeling of genuine exuberance, where a 3.4 km walk entailed.

It was during the walk to Carlton North that strangers from all walks of life incited conversation amongst themselves. Past the Exhibition buildings, we walked towards Drummond Street, northward.

The journey started at 2 pm and we reached the Albanian Australian Islamic Society (AAIS) and its Albanian Mosque at around 4pm. It was here that the President, Vahid Goga, gave an introduction and a glimpse into the history of the Albanian Islamic story in Melbourne from 1963 to the present, with a pride that was expressed and felt by the audience. Historically, Albanians have an honored position in not resorting to the base instincts of sectarianism. Atheists, Christians, Orthodox, Catholic, Jews and Muslims have lived side by side in harmony. Communism is a historical aberration that is and was alien to Albanian culture and practices. The concept of social religious harmony is not even a second thought, rather a core value of Albanian tradition. Respect for the stranger is a given. It is central to being Albanian.

Dr Bekim Hasani, then, with eloquence, presented to all what Islam expressed through its tolerance, values and innate practice of peace. The Prophet Abraham, peace and blessings be upon him, would have been impressed by this congregation and the words, the deeds of good intention communicated, sincerity and above all the obviousness that we all share commonalities. After the presentation the warmth continued with Albanian hospitality, through coffee, tea, sweets and conversation.

This was a day where one hundred and fifty (150) individuals, each intrinsically different, yet all sharing a belief and faith, that through a divine connectedness. All Mankind, each and every soul, is loved, cherished and honoured by the grace and mercy of Allah (Subhanna wata’Allah).

This day was a quiet act of kindness of symbolic friendship, a calm exuberance that leaned towards a celebration. It was an afternoon of interaction and of the possibility that good, through the ordinary act of walking, talking, absorption and reflection is possible: albeit we as humans are in essence all the same. Facing each other, listening to each other, sincerely without any motives, except to hear each other. Yet, how special to experience that with the shadow of Abraham through the light that guides from the one and only indescribable Divine, mentioned in all the Great Holy Texts, that we should All strive for good works. Even if we do fall short, from time to time, our intention for good is all the more important.

AAIS Financial Member





















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