WHEN more than 300 people from different religious backgrounds attended Australia’s largest interfaith event for young people – the Youth PoWR conference – in North Sydney last Saturday night (September 3), the frequency of nods of understanding stood out most.
Eight members of different faiths delivered speeches at the annual event, which was hosted by the Parliament of the World’s Religions (PoWR). Judaism was represented by University of Technology Sydney student Ashleigh Werner. She began her talk by explaining the Jewish traditions of tikkun olam (repairing the world), tzedakah (charity and generosity) and chesed (love and kindness).
“It [Judaism] tells us the relationship we have with one another as human beings is almost more important than the relationship we have with God,” Werner said. “I think interfaith should be about appreciating each other’s differences and each other’s faiths – it’s not about tolerating.”
Werner – who founded the #myfaith Facebook campaign to promote interfaith understanding and presented a lecture about it at the 2016 G20 Interfaith Pre-Summit in Kerala, India – told The AJN, “I became intrigued with interfaith activities when I realised the power of a conversation in breaking down barriers.” Recommendations from the conference will be presented to civic and religious leaders, including a call to increase Australia’s humanitarian program to 20,000 places and to cease inhumane practices and mandatory, indefinite detention of asylum seekers at off-shore detention centres.
After the event, four conference members from different faiths – including Jewish representative Avia Madar – were interviewed live on ABC 702’s Sunday Nights program and asked what they learned. Madar said, “It was amazing how much shared experience we have.”
Youth Parliament of World Religions, NSW