Youth in interfaith dialogue


Adolescents promote embracing diversity during World Interfaith Harmony Week

We talk a lot about interfaith ideas and social cohesion. But, what do we really mean and what are we trying to achieve? In vibrant, multicultural Australia, ‘interfaith’ aims to ensure that people understand the religion and culture of others and are more tolerant towards their viewpoints. It adds a constructive and positive dimension to the community.

The Darebin Council Interfaith Network in Preston hosted an event called ‘Stories of Hope’ last month. It focused on opinions from youth about their experiences with interfaith, and how their religion has affected their lives in Australia. Notably, this event occurred during the first week of February known as World Interfaith Harmony Week – formed after a United Nations resolution proposed in 2010. That week, in particular, commemorates harmony and tolerance, and promotes the common basics of ‘love of God’ and ‘love thy neighbour’.

Interfaith.Indian Link

The event had eight young speakers of varying ages, including myself, speaking about their experiences with interfaith philosophy. I spoke on Zoroastrianism and the declining reluctance of the youth to enquire and learn about other faiths.

All participants were in favour of more interfaith events and one high-school student noted that more should be taught about inclusivity in this context at the primary and high school level. “Too much time was focused on one belief and, although the school was very multicultural, the curriculum didnot accommodate broader learning,” he observed.

Australia has been commended for its multicultural flair and has also been condemned for being the exact opposite. The spate of violent attacks against Indians in early 2009, the inherent failures in the social and legal system affecting Indigenous Australians and the ongoing debate about asylum seekers, calls into question whether the Australian Government can formulate policy to ensure that everyone is appreciated and recognised. Such factionalism is inexcusable as we have much to benefit with everyone’s regulated inclusion.

We all want to safeguard world peace, however we must not be selfish and ostracise groups for arbitrary reasons. Sometimes we form an opinion about others without actually knowing and understanding all the facts. This can be detrimental because we might associate or not associate with them based on a misconception. Furthermore, it can be toxic in a relationship, or even an organisation, if such views are shared.

Interfaith.Indian Link

A member of the audience raised the issue that interfaith is more aligned with education and observance.

“We should mix together and embrace what people have to offer,” she noted. “It is great to see that people of all ages have come here today to share their experiences and hear insights from different generational groups.”

Another participant noted, “We are all human and should embrace what each and every one of us has to offer.”

What is learned from an interfaith event should not be practiced temporarily. Inclusion and acceptance require continuous improvement and for many, it can be difficult to adapt. But, there should be no excuse. Interfaith ideology plays a strong role in sustainability and preservation. Resources exist on this planet for all to use and we are merely visitors who should replace what we have used for future generations.

Notable attendees at the Interfaith Network event included: Cr Tim Laurence, City of Darebin; Mr Suriyan Nalliah, Darebin Ethnic Communities Council; Mr Aziz Cooper, Darebin Interfaith Network; and, members of the Darebin Intercultural Centre.

From what was said on the day, I can be reassured that the youth are aware about the importance of interfaith understanding and it is comforting to know that future generations will appreciate each other and grow as one.