I recently returned from Perth where we co-organised a Regional Youth Interfaith Forum with DFAT. These two days spent with 60 young people from many different countries in the region and across Europe and from various religious denominations was very refreshing.
I keep two moving images in my heart - a common lecture of the bible by a young Catholic and a Jew, and the kisses and friendship testimonies of the participants when they were leaving after only two days spent together.
The strong desire of these young people to talk together, to exchange and share common values of peace, tolerance and understanding is an illustration that religious beliefs are not, and should not be, a factor of division in today’s world. In the EU as well as in Australia we believe in respect and tolerance. Our institutions guarantee the fundamental freedoms, so we must share those invaluable benefits with our neighbours.
This was our goal during the two days of the Interfaith Forum and the main result from the gathering has been to initiate an informal friendship network that I hope will last for a long time, especially since it is composed of the young people who are our future.