Youth PoWR 2015 - Youth Celebrate Religious Diversity

2015 Youth Powr Committee. Photo: CCCMR

More than 400 young Australians representing diverse religious and cultural backgrounds assembled for the inaugural Youth Parliament of World’s Religions (Youth PoWR) on 17th September. Youth PoWR is an initiative of the Columban Mission Institute and this year’s event was coordinated by a passionate, enthusiastic team of young people representing different religious communities across Sydney.

The event at the Sydney Baha’i Centre featured speakers from the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Baha’i, Buddhist, Sikh and Hindu communities who addressed a Message to Youth and a Message to Religious and Civic Leaders. While the Message to Youth urged other young people in society to join in the interfaith journey and to encourage their friends to do the same, the Message to Religious and Civic Leaders thanked our leaders for their leadership and asked that they open up for us those texts in our respective scriptures that illuminate and inspire positive interfaith relations. Ms Sahba Clara Delshad from the Baha’i community addressed the Message to Youth, “Youth are needed as leaders and decision-makers not only in youth conferences, committees and panels but in those spaces where the course and direction of society as a whole is determined.”She encouraged her peers to take leadership and play their part in building a vibrant, inclusive, multi-faith society.

After the speakers addressed the parliament, 400+ young people voted in support of the messages, which will now be circulated and shared with religious leaders, civic leaders and youth organizations in NSW.

The youth were given the opportunity to make their own commitments to interfaith dialogue. Some committed to visiting another’s place of worship, others expressed interest in starting a multi-faith association at their universities, while others simply committed to embracing each other with hands of true friendship. The civic and religious leaders present on the night also made their own commitments “to engage in interfaith dialogue with compassion, to challenge prejudices and to uphold good character even when we disagree with each other.”

The programme was brought alive by engaging performances from Aboriginal students at St Joseph’s Hunters Hills, Spoken Word poet Ahmad Al-Rady and a Polynesian performance group.

Youth celebrate religious diversityThe process of preparing for Youth PoWR was a transformative experience for all those involved. Satjit Singh from the Sikh community said that working with individuals from diverse backgrounds, opinions and beliefs revealed how much they have in common, “I am proud to call these people my friends. Youth PoWR is a perfect example of how we can achieve peace, harmony, unity and happiness for our communities.”

It is hoped that Youth PoWR becomes an annual event that continues to give youth a voice in shaping our multi-religious society. Youth PoWR visionary, Columban Rev Dr Patrick McInerney believes that Youth PoWR is greatly needed in Sydney and across Australia in 2015, “Ours is a multi-faith society. Harmony can only be achieved by reaching out to the “other” and getting to know them as my sister and my brother.”

Ashleigh Green works in the Columban Mission Institute's Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations.

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