Spread love, not hate.
That’s the message Western Australia’s Islamic community feels is not only important but vital, as the local community continues to take stock after the tragic events in Christchurch.
Islamic leaders, families and students from across the country have held vigils and memorials since March 15 and have, in an inspiring effort, aimed to convince both Australia and New Zealand that they are not to be feared, because they are a part of a cohesive society.
Much of the local Islamic community is focussed around the Australian Islamic College (AIC) schools in the outer-metropolitan suburbs Thornlie, Dianella and Kewdale.
Less than a week after the shooting, girls from Methodist Ladies’ College (MLC) visited their counterparts at AIC Thornlie, something they have done regularly for two years now.
The thoughts and feelings are more sombre than usual.
As the students arrived at the school, they were faced with a new level of security, something which AIC executive principal and CEO Abdullah Khan said was simply a precaution.
“The message we are trying to get out into the community right now is that yes, we are ensuring that we have an increased level of security, but there is nothing to fear,” he said.
“What we are doing now and what we should be doing now, is not withdrawing.
“We should be coming forward and speaking up and saying this is a tragedy, but it will not make us live in fear.”
The forum with the Methodist girls, an ongoing program that tries to break down cultural and religious barriers, seems as necessary now than it ever has been.
Created by AIC coordinators Idroz Shah Bahroocha and Suriani Abdul Rahman with MLC chaplain Reverend Hollis Wilson, the program has seen strong relationships form with students from both schools over language classes, presentations and general arts and crafts activities.
Mr Bahroocha said it is times like now that make him proud of the program’s success.
“The whole point of establishing the program was to establish communication and dialogue between faiths,” he said.
“The girls, when they come together, they bond like they’re not different because they aren’t.
“They face the same struggles and challenges as every other teenage girl out there.
“They learn these lessons when they come together, and most importantly it doesn’t matter what someone looks like or what they do, you can form bonds with people beyond your separations.
“So the point of the group was in essence to deal with situations like this, because the young have open hearts and are more willing to get over their differences.
“It just so happened that these were the events before this meeting.”
Mr Khan urged the Muslim community to keep alert but not alarmed and asked all Australians to stand with the community.