On Wednesday 16 March, Charles Sturt University held a dedication for the Port Macquarie campus’ new mutli faith room.
The room is available to all students and staff on the campus for worship, prayer, meditation, and reflection.
The use of the room is overseen by university chaplains. Uniting Church Chaplain Rev. Tau’alofa Anga’aelangi has been involved in ministry at the campus for the past two years. Rev Anga’aelangi arranged the dedication service as well as the preparation of the protocols for use of the room.
“It was a beautiful day,” Rev. Anga’aelangi said.
“The most exciting thing I’ve done in my role.”
Rev. Anga’aelangi told Insights that the space had proven to be an important one in the life of the campus.
“The new CSU multifaith space, is committed to welcoming different faith communities to gather and explore their commonalities and differences,” she said.
“What we mean by exploring is to touch upon “The indigenous Wiradjuri phrase which is highly valued at CSU, “Yindyamarra winhanganha” meaning, “the wisdom of respectfully knowing how to live well in a world worth living in.””
“My hope for the Multifaith space is for communities to recognise diversity in thinking and belief is a gift, which brings a richness to the way we live and nurtures all of us to be in dialogue with each other.”
The dedication featured prayers and readings from Christian and Muslim communities and the lighting of a “multifaith candle”.
“We [were joined] by a group of students from the indigenous centre and also the coordinator,” Rev. Anga’aelangi said.
“That’s been really a significant part of my ministry is the continuous relationship with them.”
Emeritus Professor Ross Chambers gave the dedication address. Professor Chambers was previously the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at CSU. He is the current chair of the Port Macquarie Uniting Church Council.
Professor Chambers stressed how important and valuable it was for people to feel safe to bring their beliefs and values into the shared space of a university campus.
“Respectful listening and dialogue would lead not only to a greater understanding of each other but also to a greater understanding of our shared humanity and a shared commitment to the common good,” he said.
The dedicated multi faith room on campus came about after the Muslim community in Port Macquarie and Port Macquarie Uniting Church approached the university. The Muslim community and Port Macquarie Uniting Church have hosted dialogue events and community Iftar dinners, which have been supported by the wider community, including other churches and the local Anglican and Catholic schools.
“The prayer room reflects a strong practice of inter-faith dialogue and cooperation in the Port community,” Professor Chambers said.
“The ready acceptance by CSU of the proposal for a prayer room reflects the long-standing commitment of the University to dialogue and inclusiveness and to an ethos where expressions of faith and deeply held beliefs are welcome. Respectful encounters and exploring how to live in a diverse society are regarded as important elements in the university experience.”
CSU is home to a School of Theology (of which United Theological College is a member) and a School of Islamic Studies. It also has a research centre committed to Christian-Muslim dialogue.
Professor Peter Walker, the Principal of UTC, and Dr Mahsheed Ansari, from the School of Islamic Studies, jointly teach a subject in dialogue which is available in UTC’s programs as well as in the Islamic programs.
Rev. Anga’aelangi said that the CSU chaplaincy team would appreciate ongoing prayer.
“We have a lot of international students who struggle, and have been struggling with COVID,” she said.
“There is an ongoing struggle to find accommodation.”
“It’s great to see the church investing in tertiary ministry.”
Charles Sturt University Port Macquarie’s multifaith prayer room is located in Building 802.