A GROUP of community leaders has vowed to stand strong in support of Muslims in Bundaberg. More than 20 leaders came together at Buss Park yesterday to speak out against ignorance and intolerance. Among the group were religious leaders of different religious denominations as well as leaders of Bundaberg’s Muslim community.
Salvation Army Captain Chris Millard spoke for the group and said “faith is separate to hate,” as he expressed his outrage and frustration after seeing graffiti on a fence on FE Walker St. “Kill Muslims Assie’s (sic) Allea (sic) must be stopped world wide,” the sprayed paint read. “All of us here have experienced people’s ignorance and rudeness in horrible things they say,” Captain Millard said.
“Just because someone doesn’t believe what you believe doesn’t make them wrong – it makes them their beliefs and your beliefs – and I’m allowed to have mine just as they’re allowed to have theirs,” he said. “We are a community which believes in doing the right thing and we want to make sure people have the right to believe and think what they like but others are allowed to have their own thoughts.” Cpt Millard said he believed intolerance in the Bundaberg region stemmed from fear.
Acts (of) terrorism around the globe were tragic, horrible and sad, Captain Millard said, but religion was not to blame. “It’s not religion that does these things its the people in the name of religion who do things and we need to stand against the violence, against ignorance and against racism,” he said. “We need to teach other to respect each other. “Disagreeing is not hating – it’s okay, but using in a platform of hate or violence is not acceptable or tolerable in anyway.”
Member for Bundaberg Leanne Donaldson said everyone had a right to practice their religion freely and without fear. “Religious intolerance is everybody’s problem but I believe we can be part of the solution,” Ms Donaldson said. “We are here in regardless of anyone’s political views or faith it’s important to call this behaviour out for what it is,” she said. “It’s harassment on the basis of religion and in many case of ethnicity and nationality.”
Ms Donaldson organised yesterday’s event after she was approached by the Bundaberg Peace Project, members of which have experienced harassment and verbal attacks, as well as the FE Walker St graffiti. She said the negative mindset and actions of some did not belong in 2017 and would not be tolerated. And, she said, there was an obligation for political leaders to call out the behaviour. “I think people believe people can say or do thing which will go unchecked and they have a licence to do these things,” Ms Donaldson said.
“We stand together to say they do not have a licence and it will not go unchecked.” The group hopes residents stand with them and put an end to the bigoted actions of others. “If they see it in the street, just like if they saw domestic violence or any other behaviour that is unwanted they would call it out when they see it,” Ms Donaldson said.
Member for Bundaberg Leanne Donaldson and Bundaberg religous leaders have called for an end to bigotry and racism in the region.