Young people from diverse faith backgrounds stood for a society which “embraces diversity” and “celebrates difference” on Harmony Day 2016. They presented a message to politicians at NSW Parliament House which was voted on by over 400 young people at Youth PoWR (Parliament of the World’s Religions) 2015. To counter some of the messages of fear and intolerance, they also invited guest speakers to share how they could together support and welcome refugees to Australia.
Sikh representative Balpreet Kaur read the 2015 Youth PoWR message to politicians, stating:
As our civic leaders, we ask that you provide us with a living example of what it looks like to step outside our comfort zones, to embrace the other and to live in solidarity with people outside our immediate communities… We ask you to provide appropriate facilities and protections that ensure all Australians can live their faiths freely with dignity and without vilification.
NSW Minister for Multiculturalism, the Honourable John Ajaka MP and NSW Shadow Minister for Education, the Honourable Jihad Dib MP received the message with enthusiasm. They also acknowledged the importance of Youth PoWR and encouraged those involved to keep working at a more inclusive multi-faith community.
Guest speaker Tanya Jackson-Vaughan, the Executive Director of the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS), highlighted the inherent nature of interfaith dialogue when welcoming refugees. Ms Jackson-Vaughan encouraged those who attended to keep pursuing their goals and listed practical projects to get involved in, such as the Welcome Dinner Project, and more.
“On Harmony Day, It is such an honour to be speaking to a group of compassionate thinkers who want to come together to strengthen multiculturalism and celebrate the diversity that makes Australia great, makes Australia the place I want to live and raise my children,” Ms Jackson- Vaughan said.
“Write to your MPs, speak to your community – be champions of cultural diversity, of the spirit of welcome.”
Francis Ventura also inspired the audience, sharing his own experiences of building interfaith harmony and empowering girls as the Founder of The Peshawar School for Peace in Pakistan.
The inaugural Youth PoWR was held on 17 September 2015 instigated by the Columban Mission Institute’s Centre for Christian Muslim Relations. Over 400 young people from a diverse range of faiths including Sikhism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Baha’i & Judaism, came together at the Sydney Baha’i Centre, Silverwater. Youth PoWR 2016 will be held on Saturday September 3 at Monte Sant ‘Angelo Mercy College, North Sydney. Young people from different faiths will meet, discuss and vote on issues relevant to the theme: ‘Towards a More Compassionate and Just Society’.
Like Youth PoWR on Facebook for details: facebook.com/Youth.PoWR
Steff Fenton is the Networking, Social Media and Projects Officer at the Columban Mission Institute, North Sydney.