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Australia: New interfaith charter for building bridges between religions

  • Mauricio Silva

Sydney Statement Booklet

Sydney Statement Booklet

The Youth Parliament of the World's Religions (PoWR), an interfaith initiative of the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations in Australia, has launched The Sydney Statement, a new interfaith charter for 'Building Bridges Between Believers from Different Religions'. Although 'named' after Sydney, the charter is intended to be relevant not only to Australia but to the world.

Youth PoWR is a coalition of young adults in Sydney - Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh - which spent over two years in consultations and drafting. They were overseen by senior representatives from these religions, including state and national bodies. Ryan Epondulan, Youth PoWR Coordinator, said it has "identified values and principles for a peaceful, just and harmonious multicultural, multi-religious society, and provided concrete steps for getting there."

Commitments include promoting mutual respect, understanding and cooperation between believers; working together on common social issues; working together on environmental issues and to promote peace; rejecting religious extremism and acting in solidarity with victims of religious discrimination. A designated website, posters and a booklet have been produced.

Sydney is a multicultural, multi-religious city where more than a quarter of the population were born overseas. People identify with more than 300 ancestries and speak more than 215 languages. They follow more than 150 different religions or spiritualities. Cultural, ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity is deeply embedded in the life of the city. Religious believers, both as individuals and as members of their faith communities, have contributed to the harmony and wellbeing of society.

Although framed in terms of religions, the values and ideals of The Sydney Statement are readily accessible to secular worldviews and philosophies. Youth PoWR invites peers, religious leaders, co-religionists, believers from all religions and all people of good will to sign up to its values, principles and commitments on its dedicated website. The website also contains interfaith resources, such as the story of The Sydney Statement; the interfaith statements from other cities that inspired it; information, websites and articles on interreligious dialogue; and more. There are also stories of how people are living out the commitments in the Statement.

It is an initiative of the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations, based in New South Wales, in partnership with Western Sydney University. It is supported by a grant from the New South Wales Government and is underwritten by St Columban's Mission Society.

The Sidney Statement is a wonderful example of how faith-filled young people can come together to dream a future of peace and harmony in a multicultural and multifaith urban context. It is also an invitation to people of faith to discover how religions can effectively become a source of communion and understanding at a critical moment in our history. From a Christian point of view, the Statement reflects Catholic teaching in promoting dialogue with people of other religions. This engagement seeks to promote initiatives around dialogue of daily life and common action as a foundation for promoting peace and the common good.

The work of the Columbans in Britain - particularly in Birmingham - mirrors the spirit of The Sydney Statement. I would like to invite supporters, partners and friends to read and endorse the commendable work of these young people in Australia.

Read the Statement: www.thesydneystatement.org.au

Mauricio Silva is the Columban Interreligious Dialogue Co-ordinator in Britain.

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