Smiles were wide as young adults from different religious backgrounds in Adelaide came together for the third annual ‘Faith Matters’ service project event on Saturday 14 July.
About one hundred young adults (aged 18-30) from LDS, Muslim, Sikh and Catholic communities, together with their faith leaders, took up the invitation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to work together in assembling birthing kits in aid of Birthing Kit Foundation Australia.
Four hundred kits, designed to help combat maternal and newborn mortalities in developing countries, were constructed by teams of youth as they followed the strict assembly guidelines beginning with thorough handwashing and sanitizing and ending with cries of, “we’ve finished!”
Along the way, friendships were renewed or created as those who were regular ‘Faith Matters’ supporters befriended the newcomers.
The interfaith initiative was organised for the third consecutive year by the LDS Church in Adelaide as a means of increasing respect and understanding between religious groups through giving service to people in need.
‘Faith matters’ participant Holly Roberts, 21, from Catholic Youth Ministry, said people could be afraid of things they didn’t understand and breaking down those barriers benefited society.
“Interfaith experiences are so important for young people,” said Holly, who was among several young Catholics supporting the programme.
“We live in a world where fear can easily be a dominant aspect of our lives, so to have the opportunity to learn about others’ beliefs – and then learn that we really aren’t that different at all – is amazing.
“That we’re all compelled by our faith to do good in the world inspires me and shows me that faith and religion still have a place in our world.”
While attendees enjoyed chatting informally during the birthing kit assembly line and over dinner, a representative from each of the four participating faiths also gave brief presentations on various aspects of their religious observance.
Presentations included a musical item by Sikh youth, and the opportunity provided by youth group members of the Muslim Women’s Association of SA for females to trial wearing the Hijab, an important headscarf covering for women of their faith.
Tea Tree Gully ward (parish) member Benson MacAllister, 19, gave the LDS presentation highlighting the importance of the Book of Mormon, LDS temples, and taking the Sacrament each Sunday to remember Jesus Christ. Benson, who leaves Adelaide next month for a two-year voluntary church mission to Bangkok Thailand, also shared what motivated missionaries to serve wherever they are sent or called.
Senior LDS Church leader Elder Paul Lekias attended the event with his wife, Rebecca, and both enjoyed chatting with the young participants throughout the activity. Elder and Sister Lekias also met with invited guests, who included Councillor Kevin Shepherdson and his wife Maria, representing Mayor Robert Bria from the Norwood, Payneham and St Peters Council.
Other dignitaries included Imam Atif Ahmad Zahid of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, along with interfaith and harmony representative Saleem Shaukat, and Shaista Kalaniya, project leader at the Muslim Women’s Association of South Australia. Pam and Sukhvinder Singh from the Sikh faith community also attended.
Councillor Shepherdson commented on the spirit of cooperation and enthusiasm among the interfaith participants.
“My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the Interfaith event for young adults. It really showed what can be achieved when dedicated young people come together and work as a team to achieve a worthwhile result. It also highlighted that different faiths can work in harmony for a specific purpose; it’s just a pity that the world cannot.”
In his closing remarks at the event Firle Stake (diocese) president Rainer Korte shared the LDS 11th Article of Faith and affirmed the importance of respect for the different beliefs of each religious group and appreciation for shared values.
“It’s become very clear to us as we have organised these ‘Faith Matters’ service projects each year, that one thing we all have in common is the desire to help others, being charitable and giving service,” he said.