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Music proves instrumental in community harmony at the All Faiths Music Festival
Though Australia is supposed to be a plural and equal, multicultural, multi-faith, accepting society, we continue to see groups of people struggling to find peace and happiness. Great tensions and tragedies continue to exist today as certain groups fight to be heard, others carelessly claim resources, and there are those who persist at seeking supremacy.
But, there is hope! We do see communities collaborating and living together without fear. I have had the privilege of attending many events where community groups actively come together to make new friends and work on projects. Such events inspire people to associate with those of different backgrounds, forging stronger networks and stable cross-community relationships.
Once again, the Sathya Sai International Organisation (SSIO) from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea held its annual All Faiths Music Festival. The Box Hill Town Hall was filled with members from various communities and faiths, sharing their experiences and stories, and catching up on news.
“These events focus on people identifying their similarities with others and not their differences,” said Neville Fredricks, Zonal Coordinator at the SSIO.
Sometimes we find it difficult to appreciate something because we simply might not fancy it. We might not try a meal because of the way it looks, or we might not listen to a piece of music because the melody is not something we are familiar with. We can all relate to not doing something because we fear the unknown. Unfortunately, the person in fear loses out on learning the unknown.
Dilnaz Billimoria, of the Whitehorse Interfaith Network, encouraged us to “show our appreciation of other cultures by taking time to listen to music from other communities that shape multicultural Victoria”.
We all need to be reminded to not become overwhelmed with personal beliefs and ideologies and to remain open to other views.
“We must make an effort to acknowledge other people and their sense of belonging in a community, and positively and actively encourage others to participate harmoniously,” said Ravi Seth, member at the SSIO.
It was uplifting to watch young people perform the melodious Vedic chanting. The simplicity of the repetitive incantations requires great patience, concentration and appreciation of its purpose. The hymns performed by an orchestra consisting of members from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were pleasant and soothing. Although many might not understand the words to Vedic chants or the meaning to the hymns, it was delightful to see everyone acknowledging the musicians with all eyes and ears focussed on the stage.
In addition, there were performances by an African Gospel Choir group, Qawwali Sufi music and a performance by members of the Sikh community.
Members of the Buddhist faith, Brahma Kumaris, Sai Baba followers, members of the Eckankar faith and Sikhs each participated to teach others about their religions. Representatives from the Victoria Police and Eastern Community Legal Centre were also in attendance to share the importance of their services.
Amongst notable dignitaries in attendance were Vicki Ward, MP for Eltham, representing Robin Scott, Minister for Multicultural Affairs; Graham Watt, State MP for Burwood; Robert Clark MP for Box Hill; Sharon Ellis, Whitehorse Councillor; and Andrew Davenport, Whitehorse Councillor.
Events like the All Faiths Music Festival encourage community participation. I continue to learn more about different communities, cultures and religions at these events and I encourage you all to spend a couple of hours meeting new people and sharing ideas. There is nothing to lose!