Understanding and accepting

March 20, 2014 by J-Wire
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120 students from a cross-section of faiths and cultures will work together  next week at a schools harmony program run by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

Victor Dominello

Victor Dominello

The occasion will be the 10th anniversary of the program “Respect, Understanding, Acceptance”.

Thousands of students from Muslim, Greek, Catholic, Jewish, Armenian, Anglican and other backgrounds have come together in a spirit of intercultural harmony in the decade since it was conceived.

This year’s program includes Indigenous students for the first time.

Minister for Communities and Citizenship Victor Dominello MP will open the program and deliver the keynote address.

The RUA program has been “a phenomenal success since its inception”, he said. “I congratulate the JBD for its stewardship of the RUA program, which today brings together over 1000 students from across our diverse religious communities,” he said. “This initiative serves to educate students  about the impact of racism and enables invaluable connections to be made between students of different faith groups.

“I look forward to meeting participants and discussing with them ways to foster tolerance and understanding within our unique multicultural society. The message is simple: through learning, friendship and advocacy, together we can build a more tolerant society.”

The focus of the program is inclusion, fairness and respect, as well as a strong anti-racism message. The program explores participants’ shared identity as young Australians and addresses cultural and religious differences and associated intolerance. It is predicated on a cohesive cultural mix.

The program will take place at Shalom College, University of NSW, on Wednesday 26 March from 10am to 2pm. The following schools will participate: Kambala, All Saints Greek Orthodox, Granville Boys High, Mater Maria Catholic College, Emanuel School,  St Vincents’ College Potts Point, Al Faisal College, Sydney Secondary College Leichhardt Campus.

“The program started 10 years ago with 20 Catholic, 20 Jewish and 20 Muslim students and has grown exponentially,” said Board of Deputies CEO Vic Alhadeff, who concludes the program with an anti-racism message. “The students are brought together for a structured day in which they are able to interact and ask direct questions about other cultural practices. It’s a very positive experience for all participants.”

The program is regarded as a way of helping young Australians break the cycles of racism demonstrated by recent incidents involving ABC presenter Jeremy Fernandez — abused with his daughter on a bus in February — and AFL star Adam Goodes, who was branded an “ape” by a 13-year-old female spectator in Melbourne.

“Clearly, some racism comes from the home, and that is where the real challenge is,” Alhadeff added. “We aim to counter the negative messages, the bigoted messages, coming from the home. And we make the point that there is no such thing as a bystander. If you’re a bystander, you’re part of the problem.”

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