International Year of Forests: “Giving Shelter, Sustaining life” was the theme for this year’s Annual Gathering of the Interfaith Network – City of Greater Dandenong. At the Annual Gathering, faith and community leaders gather to renew their commitment to work together in promoting peace and harmony in the City of Greater Dandenong. This is a unique ceremony where the faith and spiritual diversity of the City of Greater Dandenong is celebrated.

During the evening, faith and spiritual leaders sign the Common Statement which is then presented to the Mayor. A celebration in performances on the UN theme are always popular. This year, performances included a drama by students from Killester Secondary College, a musical and dance reflection from the Baha’i community, the Nadanalaya Indian Classical Dance School dancers, St Romanos the Melodist Antiochian Orthodox Choir and the inaugural performance by The Interfaith Network Bell Choir.

In more recent years the Interfaith Network has worked closely with local schools to promote respect, harmony, faith and spiritual diversity as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue. This collaboration has led to the establishment of the Greater Dandenong Combined Schools Interfaith Group which conducts a School’s Annual gathering, bringing together faith leaders, school children and teachers. The 2011 Schools’ Annual Gathering was held on the same day, in the morning, with some 700 students and 9 schools involved. Art work done by students around the theme was also displayed in local shopping centres.