Canberra SCMers attend Harmony Day Reception and show support for Palestine

Canberra SCMers Caity Cameron and Kate King recently represented the Australian Student Christian Movement at the 2018 ACT Harmony Day Reception, on the invitation of the ACT Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs. They then attended a presentation on the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel. Caity’s report on both is below - tied in, of course, with a mention of her cat, who somehow ends up in everything!

“This evening, I represented ACT SCM at a Harmony Day Reception for multicultural and religious leaders hosted by the ACT Shadow Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Elizabeth Kikkert. I attended with a new Canberra SCMer, Kate King, a third-year nursing student. The event was hosted in the ACT Legislative Assembly and guests included people from all nations (including ambassadors) and those who represented various religions. There were Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Muslim leaders, Rabbis and many priests, including Canberra’s Bishop Stephen Pickard, who is also the Director of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture.

The event included Pacific Islander dances and winners of a competition the Shadow Minister had held, encouraging school aged children to research their ethnic heritages. A 13-year-old girl with Indian heritage won the junior age section, and a 15-year-old girl with Italian heritage won the senior section. Each presented a poem they’d written about what they’d learnt in the experience. Ms. Kikkert opened the event with an encouraging and optimistic speech about the possibilities of equality and justice that begins when people of all faiths and backgrounds come together and work for a sustainable and common goal.

After the reception, Kate and I went to a presentation at Holy Cross Anglican Church in Hackett on the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), given by Ros Harper who is the secretary for the Palestine-Israel Ecumenical Network. The EAPPI program is run by the National Council of Churches, and accompaniers go into the West Bank for three months at a time and accompany Palestinians in various day-to-day activities – walking children to school, helping them cross checkpoints without conflict, planting olive trees and engaging in non-violent forms of protest. (I myself have been very interested in being an accompanier and when I talked about it with someone in the Victorian Council of Churches, they reassured me that yes I would miss my cat at home, but I would also meet many Palestinian kitties in my three months there).

After Ros delivered her talk which focused mainly on the West Bank, a young Gazan man, Ahmed, gave a talk about his experiences growing up in and getting out of the Gaza Strip. He reassured all those in attendance that conditions in Gaza are far worse than what we see, hear and read in our mainstream media. He also commented on how grateful he was to be able to be doing his PhD in Canberra (on solar-electrosis-physics). There was a brief Q and A session after the talk, and then we adjourned to coffee and cake to discuss the finer details of how to solve the crisis taking place in Palestine-Israel. SCM senior friends attended the event also."

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