As a co-worker at the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations, I have witnessed and participated in the evolution of The Sydney Statement from its inception to its realisation. Many hearts and hands and minds have been involved in this interfaith charter, which centralises values, principles and commitments for building bridges between believers from different religions.
Significant to the Statement is that its content was generated by young adults from different religions, the members of Youth PoWR (Parliaments of the World’s Religions), the interfaith network at the heart of this Statement. As a middle-aged woman occupied with raising her primary aged children, participating with youth in the development of the Statement, I rediscovered the inner “youth” that I had lost while busying myself trying to be a “grown-up” through the accumulation of degrees, a partner, a house, and the unnecessary stress of small and inconsequential matters.
Being among the Youth PoWR network during their workshops in 2019, as they dedicated themselves to making The Sydney Statement, reminded me that the condition of youth never leaves us. If I were to look at my mid-life simply as a distinct chronological stage, this would force me to farewell and mourn the loss of youth, an injustice that seems particularly prescient for women in our image-driven society.
Instead, I have learned that the joy of this life stage is the rediscovery of youth and childhood, while also gaining small gifts of wisdom aging can bring. Witnessing these young people dedicate themselves to creating The Sydney Statement through their ideas, stories, friendship, humour and an unwavering sense of justice and peace, provided me with glimpses of the energy, hope, freedom and optimism of my inner youth, while simultaneously giving me hope for the future of my young daughters. Being part of the creation of this project offered me the inspiration I needed to feel the pulse and scope of life. This pulse threads its way through The Sydney Statement.
Working with these young people I felt renewed by their desires to uphold our humanity in an increasingly complex and fragmented world. While challenging, the Statement’s values, principles and commitments for ensuring bridges remain steadfast between believers from different religions are simple really, for they grounded in what is the most common teaching among our different faiths – respect for the dignity of the human person. The Sydney Statement is where I can return if I lose my way with another. It fortifies values that I hope to model for my children as a wife and mother but can be easily forgotten as I become irritable at the world through the stresses of daily adult life. These are the values of respect, humility, patience, community, hospitality, love. If I return only to these, I return to a fulfilment of life, because these values are the glue that holds us together. Just like middle age, there is a sense of lightness and gravity in this Statement. It has a lightness of spirit in the optimism and hope for a better a future, but also the gravity of responsibility in the groundwork required to uphold these values to ensure a better world for my children and that of others.
Ms Kim Chong, Media & Community Liaison, Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations