Young adults of several Christian and non-Christian faith backgrounds came together in Adelaide on Saturday 23 July to create prosthetic hands for overseas victims of landmine and similar injuries.
The humanitarian project was funded and organised by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which sourced the prosthetics kits from the Helping Hands Program. One hundred and fifty young adults took part, putting their faith beliefs into action as they created 30 hands for people in need.
The service project was part of an overall ‘Faith Matters’ afternoon held at the Firle Stake Centre with the aim of building interfaith understanding and unity and providing meaningful service.
Member for Florey Frances Bedford – who attended as the official representative of the Honourable Jay Weatherill, Premier of South Australia – praised the event.
“I thought the prosthetic hands project was a tremendous initiative, seeing young people involved and enjoying an activity to help others,” Ms Bedford said.
“The interfaith aspect was very worthwhile – I’m all for anything that promotes unity and connection across faiths.”
For the Latter-day Saint young single adults (YSA), the project was a great way to heed the Pacific Area Presidency’s call to ‘join with other faiths in doing good’. Russell Willoughby, 26, said he enjoyed meeting and getting to know young people of other religions and churches as they worked together for a common cause.
“We got to experience something unique: creating the hands, creating new friendships and breaking down barriers that happen sometimes over belief differences. It really was a great opportunity to unite with people from other faiths who share similar values.”
It was a positive experience also for young Muslim participant Shaymaa Mahmud.
“It was a great afternoon and it really needs to happen more often – these opportunities to discover our similarities and make connections,” Shaymaa, 19, said. “The service project highlighted the types of things that young people can be doing to help others. In my faith, every act of goodness is a form of charity, and a form of worship.”
The attendance swelled to 220 people as political, civic and church leaders joined the ’Faith Matters’ forum that followed the service project. Guest speakers included the Honourable Jing Lee, a member of the State Legislative Council; Speaker of the House of Assembly (SA) the Honourable Michael Atkinson MP; and the Honourable Reverend Dr Lynn Arnold AO of the Adelaide Anglican Diocese.
L-R, Back – Cr Paul Russell of Port Adelaide Enfield Council, the Hon Reverend Dr Lynn Arnold and Firle Stake president Rainer Korte with, Front – Belinda Maric of the Catholic Office for Youth and Young Adults, Vincent Tarzia MP, Marley Raeside, Shaymaa Mahmud, Chaquita Kaur and Navroop Singh at the interfaith afternoon
The speakers shared insights into their own faith journeys or that of family members.
Ms Lee thanked the event organisers for hosting the interfaith activity. She said that being raised in a Buddhist family in Malaysia helped her face ‘life’s uncertainties’. “We are all born with a purpose, and we are connected through goodwill,” she said. “Have confidence in yourselves and instil in people the importance of making life better for others.”
Ethan McCappin (modelling a prosthetic hand) with Marion Stake president Jason Ellis, Jing Lee MLC and her husband Eddie Liew, Jill Foster and Vincent Tarzia MP
Mr Atkinson, who has served in politics for 27 years and is active in his own church parish, highlighted that politicians (of any denomination) holding religious beliefs could be deemed a negative in the public’s mind.
“When I first entered politics in 1989 there was a high percentage of practising Christians,” he said. “But not so now. And we also live at a time when opposition to religious involvement in public policy is at an all-time high.”
However, he acknowledged the motivating connection between faith and service and said, for him, Sunday at church was not just about duty but an opportunity for reflection about commitment to one’s faith.
“This (spiritual reflection) fosters humility – and politicians can certainly benefit from more of that,” he concluded, not entirely tongue-in-cheek.
Dr Arnold shared his daughter Anna-Lena’s experience in Sierra Leone as an epidemiologist working to contain Ebola. He said his first reaction to her news of the planned working trip was “oh dear”.
“And then she said ‘Dad, you’ve been teaching me for years about serving others; you said that in our faith, that’s what we do!’ – and so I told her she could go with my prayers and blessing,” said Dr Arnold, who was ordained to the Anglican ministry after decades serving in state politics including as Premier.
“She is there for a second time, and it is often difficult for her, being up close with death and loss … But (we follow) a God who reaches out to humanity, and he wants us to do the same.”
Event participants included Latter-day Saints, Muslims, Sikhs, Catholics, Lutherans and Baha’i young adults. Several of the attendees made up a Q&A panel, sharing their experiences in living their faith.
The ten Q&A panelists were: (back row) young Sikhs Chaquita and Jasleen Kaur, (middle row) Latter-day Saints Marley Raeside and Angus Kelley, Lutherans Cameron Seidel and Joshua Ridley, (front row) Muslims Shaymaa Mahmud and Kate Day, Catholics Victoria Markovic and Hayley Chapman
Comfort and guidance through prayer, loving others, scripture study, feeling of worth, modesty, overcoming misconceptions and the happiness gained in living personal faith beliefs were among the topics discussed.
A Prayer Room was designated for the Muslim guests to allow them to stay for the four-hour duration.
In closing the forum, Firle Stake president Rainer Korte encouraged all to ‘let their light shine’ (see Matthew 5:16), commending everyone for their service that day.
“Never underestimate the power that is within you to have a positive influence and make the world a better place” he said.
Mr Korte said he and the organisers hoped the afternoon would spearhead future interfaith events.
L-R Najlaa Mahmud, Nur Azneen Apili, Shaymaa Mahmud, Kate Day, Najah Musfirah Shaharudin, Muslim Women’s Association SA project manager Shaista Kalaniya, LDS Adelaide public affairs director Caroline McIlwaine, Sabrina Alameen and Noseiba Abakir
Michael Kaesler and Jacquie Rochow concentrate on the task. Participants worked with their ‘non-dominant’ hand during the process to empathise with those who are in need of the prosthetic
Latter-day Saint Amber-Jean Mutton and Lutheran visitor Joshua Ridley studying the Helping Hands kit instruction manual
Muslim participants Sabrina Alameen and Sada Sheka working with Latter-day Saint Jarrod McKellar
James Riley and Mark Ruan admire a completed hand
Father Anthony Van Dyke of St Laurence’s Priory was hosted by Gabriella and Oskar Vikor at the Faith Matters event