Fresh perspectives in faith and diversity

A group of Uniting Church youth members attended the Youth PoWR (Parliament of the World’s Religions) event at Santa Sabina College in inner west Sydney on August 20.

This interfaith event by Columban Christian-Muslim Centre is in its third year and brought together over 200 young people along with elders, to celebrate the diverse faiths and cultures in our Australian society.

Hoping Uniting Church youth representative, Susannah Brown, described witnessing the unique speeches and performances from seven different faiths, as an uplifting experience.

“As a young Uniting Church member, it was a delight to organise and participate in such a vibrant and encouraging event.

“I felt so enriched by the diversity and am eager to continue promoting and engaging in interfaith dialogue,” said Susannah.

This year’s event theme was “Together be the light in dark times” and it certainly left an impression on our youth representatives who had this to say:

 

Matt Potts, Hope Uniting Church 

In a global and national context where the issues we face collectively are overwhelming. Youth POWR was for me a powerful and hopeful opportunity to gather with people of different faiths and discuss collaborating and working together in addressing these issues.

The opportunity to gather with young people from Muslim, Judaism, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian and Baha’i communities from around NSW in an environment of genuine interest and listening was encouraging and exciting.

We shared in music, dance, conversation and food all of which for me highlighted the strength that we have together in our differences as well as our commonalities. As Christians, we constantly need to be challenged in our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus and that this does not, and should not, come at the exclusion of others from different faiths.

Youth POWR left me excited and hopeful for possibilities of deeper friendships and sharing with people of different faiths over the next year. I look forward to continuing conversations that were started and also sharing with those in my own community, what we learned and experienced.

 

Robert Watson, Leichhardt Uniting Church 

We heard guest speakers from Buddhism, Judaism, Baha’i, and Islam, who each spoke about what being a light in dark times meant for their faiths.

In small groups, we identified and discussed social issues that were most relevant to our faith communities. By far, the consensus nominated racism, discrimination, and religious freedom as the most pertinent, while climate change and environmental issues were also discussed.

My own group spent time explaining what racism and discrimination meant for each of us. The Baha’i members in particular shared moving stories of fleeing religious persecution in Iran, and coming to Australia as refugees. At the end, each group decided on an action that they could commit to doing within their own communities in order combat their chosen issue.

It was great to see the Christian community represented by the Hope Uniting Band from Maroubra; one of the songs they performed, “Turning over Tables” by the Brilliance. It was particularly powerful and relevant to the event, with a message of breaking down barriers and confronting exploitation and inequality. It goes like this:

 

“Turning over tables

Tearing down walls

Building up the bridges

Between us all”.




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