Making room for the religious other: reading interfaith dialogue and encounters in Australia from a feminist diasporic perspective
Australia is a country of many strangers who have sought to make Australia home. It is now a culturally and religiously diverse country. This diverse landscape is attributed largely to migration since the 1970s. The purpose of this thesis is to explore Australia’s religious diversity in the light of Christian theologies of other faiths and the practice of interfaith dialogue and encounters in Australia. As the title of my thesis suggests, my research explores how space or room can be created to embrace the religious other using the metaphor of home and the practice of homemaking. The intention of this thesis is to explore a framework for a theology of homemaking that integrates the private/domestic and public/national or global homes and grounded in the economy of God.
The quest for home as a place of belonging and acceptance in the diaspora necessitates a reconsideration of the concept of home and homemaking. This has become for me a personal journey of identity and belonging as a Pacific Island migrant woman to this country. It is a redemptive quest to find home and to go beyond the traditional understanding of homemaking – a term usually assigned to women to describe the activities in the private sphere of the home. In reimagining the concept of home, homemaking becomes a shared task that is inclusive of women and men as it encompasses both the private/domestic and public/political spheres.
The methodological framework for the thesis is interdisciplinary given that talk about God, faith and religion in the Australian context now is carried out in the political and social arena. Religion is no longer relegated to the private sphere. Governments are recognizing the role of religion and religious leaders as integral agents of change within their communities. This being so the public forum in which the Christian faith is now expressed is characterized by religious pluralism. It offers a challenge to Christian faith and practice. Although the primary methodological emphasis of this thesis lies in Christian theology, feminist and diasporic studies, it will also draw from cultural, sociological, philosophical, political and religious studies and perspectives as the metaphor of home require border crossings. The feminist perspective will help to identify the shadow side of home, whilst the diasporic perspective will help to elucidate the ambiguity of home. From a Christian perspective I intend to use the notion of the economy or household of God expressed through the doctrine of the Trinity to integrate the different strands. The general objective of the thesis is to encourage Christians to engage the religious other without the need to proselytise or convert but rather to see that this engagement is a necessary expression of our Christian calling.
Charles Sturt University