Over 500 youth from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds assembled for the inaugural Youth Parliament of World Religions (Youth PoWR) forum on 17th September. Prominent representatives from the Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish and Baha’i communities addressed the gathering and the event was attended by a number of civic and religious leaders.
Youth PoWR is an initiative of the Columban Mission Institute and this year’s event was coordinated by a multi-faith team of young people who worked together throughout the past year. Team member, Mark Scotto from the Melkite Greek Catholic community found that Youth PoWR enlightened people to see God in each other, regardless of faith group. “I see this as a significant step forward, as youth came to better respect the significance around why they are all here,” he said.
During the evening, youth formed their own commitments to interfaith dialogue in small groups. Some youth committed to visiting another’s place of worship, others expressed interest in starting a multi-faith association at their universities, while others simply committed to embracing each other in hands of true friendship.
The civic and religious leaders present at the event also made their own commitments “to engage in interfaith dialogue with compassion, to challenge prejudices and to uphold good character even when we disagree with each other.”
The programme was brought alive by engaging performances from Aboriginal students at St Joseph’s Hunters Hills, Spoken Word poet Ahmad Al-Rady and a Polynesian performance group.
It is hoped that Youth PoWR will become an annual event that continues to provide an opportunity for the youth of Sydney to come together to shape our multi-religious society. Youth PoWR visionary Rev Dr Patrick McInerney believes that Youth PoWR is greatly needed in Sydney in 2015, “Ours is a multi-faith society. Harmony can only be achieved by reaching out to the “other” and getting to know them as my “sister” and my “brother.”