The Justice and Internal Mission Unit hosted a ‘Building Bridges not Walls’ convention at the Centre for Theology and Ministry in Parkville on Saturday 27th May.
The convention comprised of a panel discussion and tailored workshops focusing on the global rise of the far-right and conservatism.
The panel consisted of Joe Camilleri, Emeritus Professor at La Trobe University, Monica Melanchthon, Hebrew and Bible Studies teacher at the Pilgrim Theological College, and myself, Anam Javed, Secretary of the Islamic Council of Victoria and Interfaith Portfolio Coordinator.
Panel members had common threads running through their presentations: the historical impact of the far right on our global landscape, and how fear-mongering and “othering” significantly bolster their movements.
All panel members urged the audience to be global citizens and take ownership of responsibility for shifting the tide to positive change-making.
Professor Joe Camilleri discussed the rise of rightwing parties in Europe, culminating in events such as Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump. Monica Melanchthon took us on a journey to the biblical past and touched on the idea that walls and fences have always been there; it’s what we choose to use them for that matters.
I provided insights into the increasing demonising and marginalisation of the Muslim community as a result of irresponsible and sensationalised reporting by media agencies, and the impact of this on the wellbeing of the Australian-Muslim population that is predominantly young.
Attendees left the forum with a reinvigorated passion for social justice and inclusiveness. They responded extremely positively to each panel member’s presentation.
I was asked a range of questions about Islam and Islamic practices and received votes of confidence and support from the audience, which further emphasised the need for open discussions like these to alleviate cultural and religious misunderstandings.