Speeches by Mabintou Sillah and Jahanzeb Rana on participating in Interfaith Encounters

Participants at the Interfaith Encounters Inter-School Program. Photo: Catholic Mission

Participants at the Interfaith Encounters Inter-School Program. Photo: Catholic Mission

Mabintou Sillah, Australian Islamic College of Sydney (AICS)

All praise is due to Allah the lord of the world and we ask him to raise the rank of our beloved prophet Muhammad and to protect his Muslim nation from that which he feared for them.

Assalamualaykum and good morning teachers and fellow students. My name is Mabintou Sillah and I am honoured to have the opportunity to stand here and speak to you today. I want to thank you guys for making this a wonderful learning experience for me, and I hope you guys have benefited from this experience, too.

This experience has allowed me to become a more compassionate individual who strives to learn about new religions and faiths. I have been able to discover the concepts and characteristics of different religions through the interfaith program, and this has changed my perspective on how I view things and the world around me.

This program has also increased my respect for these religions because I now understand the distinct traditions that these religions follow and the underlying idea that all religions have in common, which is to spread goodness. Furthermore, socialising with students and teachers from other schools has increased my confidence and openness. This experience has not only taught me to be more open minded and kind in my approach to those who may be different to me, but it has made my Iman (faith) stronger. I have learned various skills, one of the most important is being able to stand up here today. These skills have helped me grow into a different person these past few weeks and I aim to continually use these skills to hopefully achieve my dreams. This experience has made me look at the world differently and has helped me understand that we are all united.

To conclude, I would like to read a quote by Ali bin Abi Talib, who was one of the prophet’s [Muhammad’s] companions that has relevance to who I am to become. “Hate no one, no matter how much they've wronged you. Live humbly, no matter how wealthy you become. Think positively, no matter how hard life is. Give much, even if you’ve been given little. Keep in touch with the ones who have forgotten you, and forgive who has wronged you, and do not stop praying for the best for those you love.”  

Jahanzeb Rana, Australian Islamic College of Sydney (AICS)

Not everyone has the same beliefs. Some may be offended by that statement, and others may not care. There are so many different types of people in the world today, and there is nothing we can do about it, but accept it, and keep an open mind. Assalamualaykum and good morning, teachers, students, and event organisers. My name is Jahanzeb Rana, and I am a student at the Australian Islamic College of Sydney (AICS).

This year, my school and a few other schools were introduced to this program which we commemorate today – the Interfaith Encounters Program. The Interfaith Encounters program allows students of different beliefs to come together and bond. The whole aim of the program is to allow students to get a taste of reality and realise that not everyone has the same beliefs as them. It provides a platform for students to come together, celebrate differences, develop friendships, and to promote peace and cohesion in the society. Oh, and did I forget? To erase any misconceptions due to stereotypes. I’m sure we all can think of some stereotypes of each other’s religions.

Coming into this program, I didn’t know what to expect. Honestly, for me, it was just another, “Yay, I can get time off school.” However, it was a lot better than I expected. As soon as I heard about the program, I had this little bit of fear in me, “What did people really think of me? What did they really think about my religion? Am I doing a good job of representing my religion?” I do know a lot of people, and I am friends with a lot of people, those of other beliefs. However, I have never actually gotten the chance to talk to these people about their beliefs, and the differences in between, which is why I had that fear instilled in me. I had that fear that we wouldn’t get along if our religious differences came in the way. However, it was the complete opposite. As soon as I got to Gilroy in the first event, I realised that everyone can get along no matter what. Everyone was respectful, outgoing, and open minded. Everyone respected one another and that is the most important part. Even when Unity Grammar and St Pats got involved, it became even better. Everyone looked further than just religion. We all discussed similarities that we share, outside of religion, on the random tables we were placed.

I’m sure many of us realised that there is more to life than just being stuck on the differences. We want a society where freedom of speech is encouraged, not cancelled, where diversity is celebrated, and where everybody, no matter race, religion, or gender has the chance to achieve their maximum potential. We don’t want a society where all we want to do is fit in, where we act like everyone else, think like everyone else, and be like everyone else. You know what, it takes courage to be different nowadays, and I’m not just talking about religion, I’m talking about life in general. Be proud of who you are. If people around you don’t like the way you are, don’t change who you are, change the people you’re around. You’ll live to love and you’ll love to live.

I’d like to thank everyone here for being so respectful and open minded throughout the program, especially the catholic schools. It is great to see that we aren’t only learning about other religions through textbooks, but through people who are from those religions. Thank you, teachers, for being supportive throughout the program, and thank you to Catholic Mission for organising these events.

I’d like to end with a quote from Henry Ford:

“Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success.”

I look forward to staying in touch with everyone here, and maybe even working together with some of you in the future. I wish you all the best of luck. Thank you.

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