Youth PoWR (Parliament of the World’s Religions) launched their interfaith charter, The Sydney Statement: Building Bridges Between Believers from Different Religions, to media and a religiously and culturally diverse audience of civic, religious, community and educational leaders, students, interfaith advocates, colleagues, friends, and family, at the Sydney Town Hall on 11 March 2021.
School students and educators from Unity Grammar and St Patrick's Marist College
As one of the first in-person interfaith events since COVID-19 restrictions eased, it was uplifting to come together to celebrate a new resource for the practice of dialogue. Guests enjoyed performances by the Doonooch Dancers; L-Fresh The Lion; and duet Brian Lorenz and Monique Montez, who sang The Prayer; and speeches by Alpha Cheng; Dr Geoff Lee MP, Minister for Multiculturalism; Jodi Mackay MP, Leader of the Opposition and Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism; Rev Dr Patrick McInerney, Project Executive of The Sydney Statement, and Director of the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations; Rabbi Benjamin Elton, Chief Minister of The Great Synagogue, delivered by Rabbi Phil Kaplan; Rev Pravrajika Gayatriprana, president of the Ramakrishna Sarada Vedanta Society of NSW; and Youth PoWR committee members, Zubaida Alrubai and Joshua Moses.
Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism Jodi McKay MP
The MC, Youth PoWR Coordinator Ryan Epondulan, said of the Statement: “The members of Youth PoWR identified values and principles for a peaceful, just and harmonious multicultural, multi-religious society, and provided concrete steps for getting there. It forms people for growing interfaith relations which are authentic, honest and respectful. It also educates them about the different ways of carrying out this task.”
Keynote speaker Alpha Cheng
Keynote youth speaker Alpha Cheng reflected on the murder of his father Curtis, who, when leaving work at Parramatta Police Station, was shot and killed by a 15-year-old boy claiming to act for the Islamic State. Alpha's compassionate plea was not to take the easy way out and lay blame at the feet of an entire group of people because of a single act of one extremist. He would not have politicians use his father’s death to attack Muslim migration.
In his speech, Project Executive Officer Rev Dr Patrick McInerney acknowledged Australia as one of the most successful multicultural societies in the world but reminded the audience that to maintain this success we must do better. He cited the Christchurch massacre “by one of our own”, antisemitism, the rise of hate speech, Islamophobic attacks suffered daily by Muslims, and the shadow of racism cast by White Australia as motivations for pursuing the actions in The Sydney Statement.
Rev Dr McInerney also revealed that in the initial responses to the Statement, some people thought it was too religious, while others said it was not religious enough; that it was too secular, or not secular and all-inclusive enough; that on some social issues it goes too far, or not far enough. To which Rev Dr McInerney exclaimed: “To the young people who authorised The Sydney Statement, I say, if everybody is against it, you must have got it just right! Its purpose is not to affirm the status quo, but to disrupt it. It is a call to action. Some may not agree with parts of the document, for it is made up of many different voices. But it is in respecting differences that we can begin to speak with one another and form a symphony.”
The Sydney Statement serves as a preventative and an antidote to threats to Australia’s harmonious existence. Now you can be part of it. Youth PoWR invite the wider public to commit to living out the values, principles and commitments of The Sydney Statement by signing up on its dedicated website, at www.thesydneystatement.org.au.
Check out the highlights video of The Sydney Statement Media Launch on our Facebook page!
A detailed account of the Media Launch, including the full texts of the inspiring speeches, is available on the Media page of The Sydney Statement website: https://www.thesydneystatement.org.au/the-sydney-statement-media-launch-with-speeches.html