Flinders University is developing a national and international reputation on the strength of an innovative approach to meeting the religious and spiritual needs of its students based on the concept of hospitality, according to Mr Geoff Boyce (pictured).
Mr Boyce is now employed by the University as the co-ordinating chaplain for Oasis, the University’s interfaith centre. He previously served as the Uniting Church chaplain at Flinders.
Oasis is used by people of many faith traditions including Islam, Buddhism, and Christianity, as well as those with a secular worldview. It is also becoming a home for those who gather from a variety of cultures and nationalities.
Mr Boyce said the introduction of Oasis in 2007 represented a change in emphasis.
“Instead of just a facility of rooms that people use, we wanted to create openness and dialogue,” Mr Boyce said.
“We developed an ethos around the idea of an oasis, which is welcoming, nourishing and refreshing.”
Oasis, which was formerly supported by Flinders One, the student services organisation, has now been incorporated within the University’s support services.
Mr Boyce said the University’s growing level of involvement reflected the demand for religious and cultural facilities and services by students, especially those from overseas.
“It puts us at the forefront in the way we respond to the needs of international students who bring their religious and cultural life with them,” Mr Boyce said.
Mr Boyce said that his interest in fostering understanding between different religious groups and building harmonious relationships reflects a wider set of issues at a global level.
He said there is growing interest in the Flinders approach from other Australian universities and from overseas.
At the invitation of a former Flinders student, Mr Boyce presented a paper to an international symposium sponsored by Indonesia’s Ministry of Religious Affairs in Jakarta last year.
“Flinders is a world leader in developing a unique structure that puts together pastoral care, peace studies, conflict resolution and social justice with religious observance and spirituality,” Mr Boyce said.
“It’s all about how we live with difference, and finding ways in which harmony can be fostered in a civil society.”