Earlier this month over 300 young people from diverse faith backgrounds met in Sydney for the largest interfaith event for young people in Australia. Youth PoWR (Parliament of the World’s Religions) saw youth vote on and commit to a message of common and critical concern; ‘Towards a More Compassionate & Just Society’.
Youth aged 17-35 from Aboriginal, Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and no faiths were represented with high energy on Saturday 3 September at Monte Sant’ Angelo Mercy College in North Sydney. Speakers from these eight religions addressed the parliament, inspiring them through religious texts and teachings.
In two sitting sessions, they voted on which social, political and environmental issues they want to see civic and religious leaders to take concrete action on. Youth then wrote their own commitments to build more compassion and justice in Australia, by working in harmony with each other.
Youth PoWR was paused halfway through proceedings for one minute of silence where, amidst all of their differences, everyone prayed, meditated and reflected together on a shared vision:
“Injustice and indifference cannot flow from the Divine, nor should injustice and indifference flow from any of our religions. Formed by our faiths, we care deeply about poverty, inequality, discrimination, violence, and the wanton exploitation of people, animals and the environment. We have an opportunity and a responsibility to take charge of the change we want to see in the world.”
Results from Youth PoWR show the injustices surrounding Refugees, Racism & Discrimination, Aboriginal Rights and Domestic Violence are most important to young Australians of faith. Other proposals included Poverty, Climate Change, Gender Equality, Mental Health and Religious Freedom.
Presentations of the ‘Youth PoWR 2016 Message: Towards a More Compassionate & Just Society’ will be made to a range of Australia’s politicians and religious organisations in the coming months. Many also volunteered on the night to coordinate “Youth PoWR Action Groups” to carry out their commitments of interfaith action.
Youth PoWR has not only given young people a platform for their civic and religious leaders to hear and heed their concerns. By committing to work together across their differences—differences which have, and continue to, divide religious believers across the globe—these youth have also become a living model of interfaith harmony, of paving the way in overcoming old prejudices and building a new world.
A day after Youth PoWR, representatives from Christian, Hindu, Jewish &Muslim faiths went on ABC Radio’s Sunday Nights to discuss the social, environmental and political priorities of Australia’s religious youth – the show has since been aired and podcasted across the world to tens of thousands of listeners. Two weeks later, on Sunday 18 September, representatives from Baha’i, Christian and Muslim faiths shared in a special Q&A event at the Australian Baha’i Temple’s International Day of Peace Service.
Kaleb Taylor, Aboriginal Spirituality
“To affect meaningful change in the world a dual transformation must take place, a transformation that takes place in the context of the individual and that of society.” – Erfaun Oh, Baha’i
“To create a society in which we all work together, hand in hand, we must truly understand who it is that we are holding hands with.” – Amy Shortland, Buddhism
“We have been led to this place where we share these collective visions for a just, fair future together, with our neighbours, who we love.” – David Barrow, Christianity
“We can be, we will be, and we must be known to be the shapers of a better and a more hopeful future, for all God’s Children.” – Jayneil Shandil, Hinduism
Rahaf Ahmed, Islam
“According to our holy books, compassion is a divine quality. Since we are modelled in the image of God himself, we must ourselves be compassionate beings as well.” – Ashleigh Werner, Judaism
“I believe that the core of Sikhi, and every true religion is LOVE, love without discrimination or any expectation. I believe this unconditional love is a direct representation of the Divine Presence.” – Harpreet Singh, Sikhism
Performance by Hawraa Kash, Spoken Word Poet