Unification News for April 2001

Australian RYS Highlights Cooperation with the Aborigine People

World Peace through Inter-religious Action is the long term goal of the Religious Youth Service (RYS), a project of the IIFWP. The quest for peace is a journey, a process that requires steps which will lead to healing and reconciliation. In Australia, the path to peace and well being must go through the Aborigine people, the continentís original people. The RYS staff and an informal intercultural team of organizers decided at an IIFWP Australian Seminar in December to begin grassroots RYS programs with an Aboriginal community.

On Jan 24th 2001 more than 30 young people traveled from Sydney to Nambucca Heads (north of Sydney on the coast) to join local Aboriginal youth in constructing a Peace Park and restoring a bus shelter while engaging in friendly dialogue and interaction. Among the participants in the five day service project were representatives from Buddhist, Christian, Moslem and Unificationist organizations. All the participants were warmly welcomed by representatives of Aboriginal spirituality along with local clergy and lay leaders from the catholic faith.

Michael Jarrett (Gunbaynggirr tribe) took it upon himself to invite RYS to the area and gain support of the Macksville Shire Counsel (donated the painting supplies), the local lands counsel which supported by offering building materials plus the support of Aboriginal youth and elders. Michael commented; "There has been a lot of talk of reconciliation between indigenous Australians and other Australians but it is time to not just talk about it but to do something."

Participants worked, ate, slept and shared with each other in a way that they found themselves being woven together as a mini-community. The sharing helped break down inhibitions and provided fertile ground for friendships to grow. Most RYS projects have several notable highlights but this project had its definitive moment during the graduation ceremony and cultural program. It was during that time, as participants presented aspects of their cultural tradition through song, dance and drama, a spirit of mutual respect and healing filled the room.

The mood of the atmosphere at the end was well summed up by the comments of participants and community members. Amanda Jarrett, Michael's eldest daughter shared: "I am more confident and have a lot of faith in other cultures after interacting with these wonderful people. I now feel sad because I don't want them to go because I feel blessed and very close to everyone." An Irish Roman Catholic Priest serving in the district explained to staff members: " You will never know what you have done to this community, there is so much darkness here that what you did is like bringing a bright light. I cannot remember an event over the past five years where there was so much joy in the children faces. No one got drunk, no fighting, neighbors who donít talk to one another are now here together..." One Laotian-Australian participant commented that this was a way that he could give back to Australia for having given his family refuge. Our senior RYS staff member, Fazida Razak commented that this program was the most exceptional RYS that she had seen in her ten years of project experience.

The RYS cultural night was designed as a time for the participants to give something from their heart and experience to the Nambucca people but this plan was turned around for the people of Nambucca spontaneously performed one after another from the oldest to the youngest. Joining the celebration were the aborigine children along with children of various races from Sydney. The mingling of the children was so pure and beautiful that it sets me thinking that these will hopefully bring about a new generation of children of natives, immigrants and non-natives who are totally color blind.

A follow up RYS project is in the planning stages. All people interested in participating or donating please contact us!

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