Around 7 pm on Wednesday 15 November 2017 at the Sydney Football Stadium when the referee blew his whistle for the start of the Australia versus Honduras game of soccer. A lot was at stake in this game as the winner would be off to Russia next year for the finals.
At the same time another game also began: This was a game of well-being where everyone was in the same team – it was called Together for Humanity. At stake in this game was the coping and growth of our children.
Together with a group of around 230 people were several of Sydney’s religious and community leaders, including Sheiks, Rabbis and Priests. The venue was the Grand Ballroom in the Bankstown Himalaya Function Centre. The theme of the night was “Youth, Hope, Solidarity”, a very fitting title for an evening of positive inspiration.
It is out of concern about the importance of engaging youth that Together for Humanity works in Australian schools to foster intercultural understanding. This organisation is comprised predominantly of Christians, Muslims and Jews, but also includes others.
Their mixed teams deliver programs to students, some of which may be the first time in their lives they have met a Muslim or a Jew, especially together.
Jana Wendt, former TV journalist and Together for Humanity board member believes that the “attitudes we adopt at school age can last a lifetime. Hatred and intolerance, or acceptance and respect, are seeded early. Prejudice and hatred dividing people who differ on matters of faith or cultural origin are a threat to a harmonious Australia”.
The proceedings at the event began with an encouraging Welcome to Country delivered by Darug elder Uncle Lex Dadd.
Then a young Australian Paralympian Adam Kellerman took to the stage. He shared with us the debilitating impact of bone cancer he first noticed when playing soccer and how it could have affected his entire life.
But not to be sidelined by his injury, he proceeded to get involved in wheelchair sports and was eventually ranked in the top ten of his new chosen field. “Disabilities are just mind-sets” he said. “We always have the ability to choose and my choice just happens to be positive.”
Foreign Correspondent, author and MC for the night Hugh Riminton then introduced NSW Minister for Multiculturalism and Disability Services, Ray Williams, whose speech included NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s personal understanding of the many challenges of migration having been a migrant herself.
Not to be outdone by serious speeches, the guests were then entertained by a band comprising of students from Punchbowl Boys High School and Santa Sabina College. Just like the soccer match with the Socceroos, they also got the crowd rocking!
Then came the turn of Bassam Maaliki, a 14 year old Homebush Boys High School student who in 2016 was accepted into the NSW Junior Parliament.
He spoke passionately about his inspiring social change project to help foster a culture of welcoming and inclusiveness in the community around Australia. Bassam also spoke at length about his passion to help asylum seekers. “I am the voice of asylum seekers, refugees and youth of multicultural backgrounds, most of whom are still struggling to be heard” he said.
He then added “Their voices are loud and clear but not reaching the right people.” A lesson for us all indeed .
Rabbi Zalman Kastel closed the night by outlining the three main priorities of Together for Humanity.
He said they are educating teachers about how they teach young people in dealing with difference and supporting them with resources, perfecting and documenting the Together for Humanity model in NSW and expanding it to other states, and finally raising more funds to further the organisation’s scope.
“Let us seize the moment tonight to build trust and break down barriers between communities and ensure that the resources, be they financial or educational, are in place to support the coming together of people with different beliefs and cultures,” Rabbi Kastel appealed.
Together for Humanity relies on private funding to continue the education it undertakes in schools across Australia. To donate please follow the following link: http://www.togetherforhumanity.org.au/tfh_donate/
Everyone gave a huge round of applause for a very successful night.
And by the way, Australia won the soccer as well.