The sign says it all. Since when should people need to rally to welcome others, to offer a helping hand? The annual #Walktogether held in both capital cities and regional locations attracted people of all ages, calling for an end to the marginalization of refugees through policies such as off shore detention, as well as to promote inter-faith and community harmony.
All ages of the community were represented, carrying multi-coloured balloons and banners professing the sentiment that Australia welcomes refugees. Andrew O’Keefe led the Sydney proceedings in Tumbalong Park at Darling Harbour after a walk from Town Hall along George Street and Liverpool Street. Things kicked off with a Welcome to Country by Gadigal elder John Madden. Mariam Vieszadeh spoke about her hopes for her daughter, born one year ago today. She spoke of how none of us chooses where we are born, about the randomness of those who draw the luck lottery in being born into a society that does not persecute a person simply because they have a different cultural heritage, where human rights are borne in mind.
Mariam was followed by Brad Chilcott, who’s message
was that the #Walktogether movement can be a catalyst for change in Australia. He aims to see a change in the political dialogue, driven by a voting public that rewards inclusion and diversity and rejects racism and fear. He made the point that as a nation, when we dehumanize others, we also dehumanize ourselves. It is a very valid point, for without people there would be no organizations, no corporations, no governments. It is people who have the power to harm or to heal. Among those walking were representatives of Australian Muslim Youth (AMY). These
energetic and open young people welcomed me into their circle for a short time to tell me a little about what the aim of their organization is – namely, to promote inter-faith friendship and cease racism through the promotion of Islam via acts of kindness to other people, regardless of their colour, creed or race. A quick review of their Facebook page shows that the group participate in regular charity drives, feeding the homeless of Sydney. At Christmas, I’ve been told they also prepare a meal for those in need. How many followers of other faiths prepare a celebration for people of a different religion? More importantly, how many people realize that Jesus is recognized as a prophet in the Islamic faith as well?
This is the essence of what #Walktogether was about – disrupting the stereotypes that racial or cultural difference should be equated with distrust, alarm, fear. AMY are working toward this on a weekly basis with practical works to prove that they represent the truth of their faith, not the scare-mongering image presented in the media.
It seems fitting to leave you with the words of their Imam Ali: “People are of two kinds. They are either your brothers in faith or your EQUAL in humanity.”