Sydney's Bridges of Faith

The Sydney Statement incorporates lessons from two decades of international interfaith dialogue.

The Sydney Statement seeks to build bridges between believers of differnt religions.

A young team has produced The Sydney Statement, an evidence-based interfaith charter designed to build bridges between believers of different religions.

Over two years, around 200 young people met to propose and approve steps that would allow people of all faiths in Sydney, and the world, to flourish as part of a resilient and harmonious society. Supported by research from Western’s Challenging Racism Project, the deliberations, organised by Youth PoWR (Parliament of the World’s Religions), resulted in the drafting of The Sydney Statement, officially launched on 9 February 2021. 

“I envision that The Sydney Statement will become a living document that presents core values, principles and commitments that challenge and question its readers, regardless of the context or times, to make a better society for all,” says Ryan Epondulan, youth coordinator of The Sydney Statement Executive Committee.

Western researchers analysed 21 interfaith declarations issued since 1990 from across the globe to provide guidelines for the drafting of The Sydney Statement. “Most of the declarations were developed by single-faith groups and written by faith leaders or executive committees,” says sociologist, Rachel Sharples. There was little evidence of their impact or of best-practice examples that were effective in directing pro-social action. In comparison, The Sydney Statement was drafted using lessons gained from Western researchers’ study of previous interfaith documents and their efficacy.

Sharples says, the pro-social action component of The Sydney Statement complements the team’s work on bystander anti-racism, which looks at how people can make informed decisions about standing up against racism and discrimination. 

Need to know

  • The Sydney Statement is an interfaith charter aimed at bettering society.
  • The interfaith charter was youth driven.
  • Western researchers provided guidelines to assist in the drafting of the statement.

The Sydney Statement stands out from previous interfaith declarations because youth were in the driving seat, adds Epondulan. He believes it has already had an impact. “At each consultation, young people were surprised by how much they had learned about other religious traditions,” he says. “I think the process of discussion, collaboration and review for this new interfaith charter will make them more confident to engage in dialogue.”

Importantly, The Sydney Statement provides suggestions about how its commitments, related to human rights, social justice issues, and caring for the environment, can be implemented. These include ideas like identifying elements in one’s own religion that are relevant to engaging with others, suggestions of interfaith events to get involved in, and resources about community organisations and activities.

The statement has so far been endorsed by nearly 200 people, including 25 leaders of seven faith groups and organisations. Other endorsers include 17 individuals from interfaith and educational organisations, and from government, including members of parliament. 

“Wisdom. Compassion. Diligence. These are the qualities of our humanity that are powerfully represented by The Sydney Statement. My endorsement is a sign of support for the wonderful opportunities presented by our multi-religious world,” says Sophie Vo, Buddhist representative on the Youth PoWR Committee.

Youth PoWR designated the 19th of March, the date the Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened, ‘Bridge Day’, a day for building interfaith bridges to promote a cohesive multicultural society.

Meet the Academic | Rachel Sharples

Rachel Sharples is a senior researcher in the Challenging Racism Project (CRP) and a member of the Diversity and Human Rights Research Centre in the School of Social Sciences at Western Sydney University. Rachel’s research interests are in the fields of racism and anti-racism, racism on online platforms, displaced persons, refugees and migrants in local and global settings, the construction and projection of ethnicity, culture and identity, and statelessness, citizenship and belonging. Rachel is the author of Spaces of Solidarity (Berghahn Books 2020). She has recently published works on Islamophobia in Ethnicities and asylum seeker disruptions to state spaces in Social Sciences. She has published chapters in Contemporary Perspectives on Human Rights Law in Australia (Thomas Reuters 2020), The Modern Guide to the Urban Sharing Economy (Edward Elgar Publishing 2021) and the Handbook of Migration and Global Justice (Edward Elgar Publishing 2021). She received the School of Social Sciences Early Career Research Award for her research and writing in 2020. 


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