More than 200 young people participated in this year’s Youth PoWR (Parliament of World Religions) on Sunday 20 August 2017 in Strathfield, Sydney.

Father Patrick McInerney, Columban Mission Institute with The Hon Jihad Dib MP, Member for Lakemba.

Now in its third year, Youth PoWR is a multi-faith initiative of the Columban Mission Institute’s Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations.  It brings together young people from diverse religions – Aboriginal, Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism – and secular society.

Youth PoWR is by young people – the members of the Coordinating Committee are young representatives from different religions who plan, organise, promote and host the event; with young people – the speakers and performers are young people; for young people – the participants are young people from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds across Sydney.

The venue was Santa Sabina College, where young people aged 17-35 engaged with each other on the practical implications of this year’s theme, ‘Light in Dark Times’.

In a video message from Chicago, Rev Dr Larry Greenfield, Executive Director of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, had a positive and encouraging message for the participants.

Dr Greenfield said he was keen to listen and learn from this gathering of Australian youth from different religions, and extended an invitation to join him and others from around the world at next year’s Parliament of the World’s Religions to be held in November in Toronto, Canada.

The event began with all attendees taking part in an exciting icebreaker activity.

The program featured inspiring talks, dynamic performances expressing compassion and justice in artistic form, and great engagement of the young people with each other.

Sourosh Cina, Speaker from the Islamic faith.

The program included speakers from four faiths: Leonard Choy (Buddhism), Rabbi Nicole Roberts (Judaism) Matin Gouniai (Baha’i) and Sourosh Cina (Islam).  There were also performances from Hope Uniting Band (Christian), Natyanivedan Indian Dance School (Hindu) and Shaheedi Faujan Gatka Akhara (Sikh).

Participants gathered in small groups and considered a range of issues.  Racism and Discrimination and Climate Change and the Environment emerged as the two most important issues to them and to young people in their faith community.  The group participants then discussed their chosen issue in depth and came up with one concrete, practical action to address that issue. The entire gathering then voted on the action proposals.

Through meeting, discussing and agreeing on shared commitments, the members of Youth PoWR demonstrated how young people from different religions can model harmonious inter-religious living for the rest of the world to emulate.

Performance by Shaheedi Faujan Gatka Akhara

You can stay in touch with Youth PoWR through the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Youth.PoWR/

Youth PoWR is an initiative of the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations. Funding was provided by St Columban’s Mission Society, the Glenburnie Program and the NSW Government through Multicultural NSW.

The panel discussed some of the ways to foster interfaith relations include:

  • Meet and greet your neighbours and work colleagues from other religions; be friendly, a smile can make a world of difference; offer congratulations for a wedding or a birth; offer condolences on a death.
  • Learn about the faiths of others from a reliable source; the best way to break down stereotypes is to meet with one of the faithful, so that their religion is not just an idea, but has a face and a name.
  • Be curious; ask questions; do not be invasive, but a sincere, respectful enquiry will almost always allay fears, elicit a genuine response and lead to better mutual understanding.

Performance by Natyanivedan Indian Dance School

Youth PoWR is an initiative of the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations. This year’s Youth PoWR was sponsored by The Glenburnie Program, the NSW Government through Multicultural NSW, and Saint Columban’s Mission Society.