Students and staff of St Mary’s Primary School, Marybor­ough took part in a workshop entitled Muslims Building Better Communities on Friday, 24 November.

The workshop was led by Mr Halim Rane, a Muslim scholar and member of the local community, and was aimed at breaking down stereotypes and building links between the Muslim and Christian communities.

Fr Paul Kelly, Parish Priest of Maryborough, warmly welcomed Mr Rane and stressed the Catholic Church’s esteem for the Muslim faith. Quoting from both the Vatican Council’s document Nostra Aetate and recent statements by Pope Benedict XVI, he highlighted the many things shared by Christians and Muslims and : emphasised that dialogue was vital and not just an optional extra.

Five Year 6 students then led the gathering in prayer for the breaking down of the walls of selfishness and for communities to work together and learn to respect the opinions of others.

Mr Rane expressed the concern that in small communities such as Maryborough people rarely had the opportunity to meet Muslims and so learn first hand about beliefs and practices and discover that Muslims were just like anyone else. A reliance on media reporting only provided a very narrow view. The workshops were an attempt to rectify this imbalance. They were repeated in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay over that weekend.