Muslim women seek a fair go
This week, International Women’s Day gave us time to reflect on the role women play as peace-makers and instigators of change. When women are condemned, supressed, or silenced, we all suffer as a result.
This is especially true when Muslim women in Australia experience verbal and physical violence on the street, singled out as followers of Islam because of the clothes they wear.
In a powerful speech on International Women’s Day, co-founder of the Islamophobia Register, Lydia Shelly, shared how Muslim women bore the brunt of racism yet continued to campaign for tolerance, inclusion and engagement.
A recent forum organised by the Uniting Church in Melbourne shed light on this problem by providing a space for Muslim women to openly share their stories. Their experiences of public abuse ranged from suspicious glances, to not being served at shops, being spat on, having profanities yelled at them, threats, stalking, to serious physical attacks.
Chair of the forum, Muslim woman Reem Hakem, reflected on what it meant for participants: “Sharing their stories allowed the women to share their hope in being accepted, rather than tolerated, as valued citizens and members of the wider Australian community. Like any other woman in Australia, they seek a fair go.”
It was the second Muslim Women’s forum organised by Interfaith Network Developer April Robinson from the Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, and run in partnership with Uniting Care Lentara and Dianella Community Health in the City of Hume.
A highlight was the way people of different faiths came together in a shared commitment to compassion and justice.
Finally, on behalf of the Uniting Church, I extend my best wishes to the Hindu, Sikh and Jewish communities on the occasion of Holi, Hola Mohalla and Purim which were celebrated in the last week.
Discerning what it means to be a multicultural Church
Great energy and passion, genuine listening and trust in God enriched the meeting of the National Reference Committee for Multicultural and Cross Cultural Ministry.
Committee members from across the country gathered together in Adelaide from 21-25 February. Drawn from different cultural backgrounds, speaking many different languages and coming from incredible journeys across many places, the committee members themselves reflect the diversity of the whole Church.
There was a joyful celebration at Payneham Road Uniting Church to mark the end of the term of the National Reference Committee and also my position as National Director. We sang and prayed in different languages together and gave thanks for the different cultures that contribute to the life of the Church.
A major focus for the committee is discerning the reality of what it means to be a multicultural Church. Discussions continued to draw from and reflect upon One Body Many Members, the document adopted by the Church in 2012 outlining the “faithful marks of a multicultural church living its faith and life cross culturally”. In particular, the committee explored the ways it can give life to the vision of One Body Many Members throughout the UCA. We acknowledged the gifts of our diversity but also the challenges we face in fully appreciating what it means to live together in our differences.
Reflecting on this challenge before us, committee member Rev. Dev Arandarajan from the VIC/TAS Intercultural Unit, shared his take on Martin Luther King’s speech about the road to Jericho.
The gathering was also an opportunity to reflect on our experiences of being a multicultural Church.
In this video, Rev Thresi Mauboy, the Moderator-elect for the Northern Synod speaks about her experiences with the Indonesian Missionary Congregation in Darwin and walking on the journey with First Peoples.
Good news from students in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is often in the news as the source of asylum seeker arrivals here in Australia but we don’t often have the opportunity to meet Sri Lankan people or hear her stories – especially those worth celebrating!
This month we’re highlighting stories of children like Dharuna, who at the age of six fled her village during the civil war and spent many years moving from place to place seeking safety. Dharuna lost part of her eye to shrapnel in that first night of flight, and as a child with a disability she has been excluded from school.
Recently our team met with some of the determined staff of the Methodist Church, who’ve had a major breakthrough in advocating to include more than 90 children with disabilities in mainstream schooling in the Kilinochchi region!
We’re excited about this win and so are the children, as you can see. With the support of Uniting Church members through UnitingWorld, they’re learning to read and write, preparing for a future with skills that will set them up for life. As adolescents, they’ll be able to attend vocational training learning to make candles, incense and repair mobile phones.
Our work with the Methodist Church Sri Lanka also provides a safe place for people of different ethnic backgrounds to meet and discuss issues that hold back progress in communities where tensions run high in the wake of the conflict. You can celebrate these projects with us and support this work here. And please help us share the good news.
To find out about what is happening across the country visit the Synod news sites below:
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