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Together for Humanity

13 September 2017 | General Interest

Recently I was asked by a former student to be part of the Intercultural Understanding Workshop at Wiley Park Girls High School in south-western Sydney.  The fifteen or so young Muslim girls had been attending these workshops for a period of six weeks with a team, a Jewess, a Catholic  ( both staff of Together for Humanity) and other volunteers.  Together for Humanity looks to engage children and adults in positive experiences of diversity through free school-based workshops aimed at promoting mutual respect and cooperation between people from different faith backgrounds. The girls at Wiley Park were very enthusiastic and when they were interviewing each of the ‘team’ they used set questions to begin but jettisoned them as they became interested in the conversation.


Having been dressed in a habit for some decades in the 60s and 70s and having lived in Bankstown among many Muslims, I thought I would take some photos of myself in the habit. This was mainly to say to the girls that the present aggression towards Muslim women who wear the headscarf or hijab was meted out to us. Some of our sisters have been spat at and had their veils ripped off when at train stations. Others were confronted by police who thought they were unable to see properly when driving; I must say I wondered how we did drive in those days! When I showed them the photo of myself in Family tartan at the Cairn of stones (Mosman Park) from Scottish Churches celebrating Australia’s Centenary, one girl was very interested and started asking how she could get a tartan.

This sharing on my part I hope helped them to reflect on what it is in society, then and now, that is so confronted by visible signs of belief. I hope that this encounter will encourage them to talk about their lives with ‘others’ and so bring about the togetherness that the programme aims to accomplish.

Dr Catherine Thom RSJ lectures in History, Theology & Spirituality at BBI-The Australian Institute of Theological Education.

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