In a nutshell, this is what Harmony Day represents. Falling on the 21st of March each year, Harmony Day was established to encourage kindness and acceptance amongst people from all walks of life regardless of their race or religion.
Started in 1999, thousands of events have occurred statewide in schools, businesses, government agencies and churches across Australia as part of the celebrations.
An organisation aligned with this movement is Benevolence Australia, in Doncaster East, Melbourne. I spoke to one of the incredible volunteer workers, Sarah Mahri about her work within the organisation.
Me: Tell me about Benevolence Australia.
Sarah: "Benevolence started in 2008 and does important work and programs within the Muslim community and also outreach work with the wider community in Melbourne. Benevolence works to create better understanding about the Islamic tradition by dispelling myths and breaking stereotypes. This is all with the intention of creating a more harmonious society. We also do programs in schools providing education to older students about Islam."
Me: How long have you worked there?
S: "I've worked for Benevolence for 4 years, Benevolence is run almost entirely by volunteers. I am a volunteer worker for Benevolence and work project by project."
Me: Do you do anything special on Harmony Day?
S: "I take part in the activities related to Harmony Day organised by the school my children attend. It's always lovely learning about other traditions and cultures, especially in dress and in food. Learning about other cultures enriches our lives."
Me: Tell me about your experience as a Muslim woman in Australia.
S: "My father came here from Indonesia 44 years ago, just after the infamous White Australia policy was abolished. My brothers and I were born here in Melbourne. Australia is the only home I have known, and I have loved my upbringing in this country. Now as I raise my own children here, it can be scary place for someone like me. The current climate in today's society pertaining to Muslims is hostile and violent. It is hard to sugar coat this in anyway and it does stem from ignorance.
The way I cope is by ensuring my own example is exemplary. I make a point of sending good energy, love and kindness out into the world. If it means I meet one person at the shops who might change their mind about what they believe to be true about Muslims, mission accomplished."
Me: What is your most memorable moment working for Benevolence Australia?
S: "Benevolence does a lot of work in the space of education. Teaching people the true values of Islam. This work is so important in increasing understanding about what Islam is really about. If the mainstream only received information about Muslims from the media, it can become a dangerous spiral of fear and demonise an entire community. I believe this outreach work is integral in this time."
Me: Is there something we can do as a community to contribute to the Benevolence Australia?
S: "You can have a look at our website (here) and see the wide range of programs we engage, there are also details there about how you can support our work."
Wonderful women like Sarah encompass what we need more of in this world; bridging the divide between different people to unite as Australians. The work Sarah and her colleagues do to abolish ignorance and racism while educating the misinformed is paramount to us evolving as Australians.
In addition to the suggestions on the Benevolence website, the colour orange is used to signify communication, mutual respect and the openness to ideas. Join in by wearing something orange, whether as an accessory, as clothing or even lipstick or nail polish!
Happy Harmony Day!
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