Friday, 25 August 2017

Young people empowered in diversity

Written by Susannah Brown, Uniting Church representative on Youth PoWR

In the space of just four hours, I was able to meet people from 10 different faiths, each bringing a unique and valuable contribution to a conversation about how we can change our world for the better.

I was at an event called Youth PoWR (Parliament of the World’s Religions) - what is thought to be Australia’s largest interfaith gathering of young people.

The aim is to bring together people aged 18-35 of all religious and cultural backgrounds to give them a voice in shaping our society.

This was the third annual Parliament held on 20 August at Santa Sabina College in Strathfield in the inner west of Sydney.

Over 200 young people and elders from different faiths met together. The energy in the hall was so positive.

Youth PoWR is an initiative of the Columban Christian-Muslim Centre and is planned by an interfaith committee of young people. I represented the Uniting Church among people of seven different faiths.

The program included speeches from four young people deeply committed and involved in their faith communities; Leonard Choy (Buddhism) Rabbi Nicole Roberts (Judaism), Matin Gouniai (Baha’i), and Sourosh Cina (Islam).

All spoke about the importance of building meaningful relationships with people of other faiths, particularly at a time when hateful speech and discrimination is part of our everyday experience.

We were also treated to three performances, a martial arts display by Shaeedi Faujan Gatka Akhara (Sikhism), a dance by Natyaniivedan Indian Dance School (Hinduism) and a musical item by Hoping Uniting Church band (Christianity), of which I am a member.

The speeches and performances fostered a positive, friendly and uplifting atmosphere, which was carried forth into the second half of the event – a discussion about the issues which stir young people to action.

In small groups comprised of people from diverse faiths, we considered eight issues – racism and discrimination, LGBTIQ issues, housing affordability, religious freedom, climate change and the environment, domestic and family violence, mental health, and refugees, asylum seekers and migrant rights.

During these conversations we were able to practice skills of interfaith dialogue and multicultural relations to establish common ground despite our differences.

Each group came to a shared agreement on one practical, concrete and doable action, and resolved to undertake the action. These actions ranged from organising a dinner for refugee families, to changing one daily habit to reduce our carbon footprint.

During dinner, we were able to informally meet and chat with each other, building networks and a sense of inter-religious belonging.

As a young Uniting Church member, it was a delight to organise and participate in such a vibrant and encouraging event. I am sure there will be follow-up dialogue and that actions will be followed through.

I felt so enriched by the diversity and am eager to continue promoting and engaging in interfaith dialogue.

Susannah Brown


PO Box A2266
Sydney South
NSW 1235

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