CHERISHING OUR DIVERSITY
We must all learn to accept that others can be different, an Interfaith event emphasises
We read about religious tensions in the world daily. When we spend time to reflect on the events that take place, we wonder why humans are unable to interact harmoniously. Unfortunately, we each have different perspectives on our values, and some are more passionate about their religious and political views than others.
Past and present events intensify the tensions between people. This leads to unhealthy and unproductive relationships. Those sheltered from such unfortunate events might not appreciate the complexities in the relationship. Whilst we should all respect and understand each other, for some, the process is difficult. But this should not stop us from endeavouring to create bridges of trust and bonds of peace.
There are many events held throughout Victoria that promote respect, harmony and understanding. The Manningham Interfaith Network (MIN) and the United Muslim Migrant Association (UMMA) Mosque and Community Centre hosted an event entitled Unity in Diversity last month.
With guest speakers and an extraordinarily multicultural three-course dinner, the event encouraged members of various faiths to network in person with fact, fun and food.
Approximately 170 guests from all faiths, spiritual beliefs and community groups attended. These included faith leaders representing Bahá’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Chinmaya Mission, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Sai Baba, Heavenly Peace and Zoroastrianism.
Fifteen speakers shared their views on the topic The relevance of faith in our modern society today and beyond. Every guest speaker encouraged the community to appreciate other faiths and to collaborate with each and every person in a positive way.
The general consensus was that faith is still relevant in modern society, regardless of whether or not you practice a religion. Faith provides comfort and guidance to those who wish to have the belief. We should not shun those who have no such belief. A belief in any faith is a private matter and we should not interfere with another person’s belief.
As an invited speaker I shared the simple tenets of Zoroastrianism: good words, good thoughts and good deeds. The Buddhist faith also share these values too. For many, this principle is hard to practice. Sometimes, we might be guilty of doing or saying something we regret. It takes courage and humility to practice this tenet and we may need to be reminded about its importance in our daily lives.
Other guest speakers highlighted the importance of learning about different faiths. One speaker commented that “most of us do not really know about the principles of various faiths. We tend to have our views marred by the media. It is unfortunate that very few people ask another person about their faith and what it means to them”.
One speaker thanked the Victorian community for making her transition from her home country to Melbourne pleasant. She noted how tolerant Victorians are and remarked that she “did not have to fear associating with others knowing that her accent, appearance and values might differ”.
Ms Paola-Rosales Cheng, President of MIN, congratulated the volunteers at MIN for organising an event that allowed people of different Faiths to share their views. “I am delighted to see a great turnout at this event and I am pleased to see so many new faces” she added. She encouraged other community organisations to hold similar events that focused on being inclusive.
In attendance included members of MIN, Sonia Vignjevic, Victorian Multicultural Commission Commissioner; Manningham Inspector Geoff Darlison and multicultural liaison officers from Victoria Police; Cynthia Shaw, Co-Chair, Migrant Settlement Committee; Michael Smith, CEO, Eastern Community Legal Centre; Dr Sue Rosenhain, Women’s Health East; Swinburne University Student Advancement and Community Engagement officers and Chaplain; Councillors Dot Haynes, Anna Chen and Paul McLeish of Manningham City Council; Karen Ivanka, Community Educator, COTA for Older Australians.
Such events focus on the importance of people of different faiths connecting with each other. One’s faith should not deter one from saying hello to others. Go on, greet a person from another faith and make a friend!