ACT: Interfaith advocates win 2016 Multicultural Canberra Awards

President of the Canberra Interfaith Forum Dean Sahu Khan and former secretary of the forum, Dr Willy Senanyake have shared the outstanding volunteer award at the 2016 Canberra Multicultural Awards.


When seven-year-old Dean Sahu Khan got into a school yard fight with a Christian, a Jew and a Hindu over whose God was the best, he thought his father would be pleased with him for sticking up for their Islamic faith.

Instead, his father gave him some advice that would shape his whole life and inspire him to become one of the founding members of the Canberra Interfaith Forum

“He said to me if there was more than one God, we’d be having an earthquake every day, every God of every faith would want to run the world the way they want,” Mr Khan said,

“He said there is only one God and this is the message we need to convey to people. I’ve lost my parents but I haven’t lost his teachings.”

Mr Khan, 66, jointly won the most outstanding volunteer at the 2016 Multicultural Canberra Awards on Monday.

Another Canberra Interfaith Forum member, Dr Willy Senanayake shared the volunteering award with Mr Khan.

Mr Khan grew up in Fiji but studied law in London before he arrived in Australia in 1990.

When the forum began in 1991, he was one of four members from four different faiths.

Now representatives from 12 different religions have a seat at the table.

Through the forum, Mr Khan said people of different backgrounds and beliefs have learnt they have more in common than they realised, just like his own father taught him many years ago.

“All religious conflicts arise out of all prejudice and ignorance and the idea behind the Interfaith Forum is to educate people to remove those misconceptions and to be able to defend each other and each other’s faith,” Mr Khan said.

“What we concentrate on is the commonalities. We have to look at what is common rather than what are the differences. Love, peace, harmony and mercy, what religion doesn’t teach that?”

Broadcaster Lucky Prasad was named the ACT Multicultural Advocate of the Year at the awards.

Volunteer tutor Laura Welsh won Multicultural Young Person of the Year while Australian Guangxi Friendship Association and DR Print founder Derek Jiang took out the Business Enterprise Award.

The Spielwelt German Parents Association won the Community Organisation Award while bloggers Rosemarie John and Joseph Ellis snagged the Media Award.

The ACT Community Languages School Association received the Education Award and the ACT Health Environmental Health Unit won the Public Sector Award for promoting food handling practices during the National Multicultural Festival.


Dean Sahu Khan of Canberra Interfaith Forum