Multifaith Youth Break Down Barriers

February 14, 2011 by Deborah Stone
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As Victorians struggle with signs of racism, a youth program is bringing together future leaders from across religious divides. Forty young people identified as potential leaders of their communities will come together later this month to find out more about other religions and learn skills that will help them lead their own communities.

Organisers hope they will take new understandings back to their communities and spread a message of understanding and mutual support.

The Multifaith Future Leaders Program includes participants from Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha’i, Sikh, Hare Krishna and Christian communities.

The young faith leaders will be sharing encounter activities and leadership training in an effort to bridge the barriers between Victorian communities during a three-day residential program on the outskirts of Melbourne. Activities include storytelling, learning about shared values, a team-building ropes course, a drumming workshop and training in conflict resolution.

The program is run by the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission, a Jewish communal organisation which works to counter racism and antisemitism, and is funded through the Victorian Multicultural Commission.

ADC Executive Director Deborah Stone said the program was a long-term investment in preventing racism.

“Fear of difference is a natural human response. To overcome racism we have to work consciously to build understanding and acceptances. Programs that bring people from different backgrounds together, especially potential leaders, offer real value in easing tensions in multicultural Victoria.

“There have been programs in schools for many years but the tertiary age group is much harder to reach and very important. This is the age when young people choose their ideologies and become potential leaders. We want them to be leaders who model understanding and respect for other communities.”

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