This is post no. 6 in my “November” writing challenge.
Not all writing is for reading quietly. The words below were spoken at a pro-diversity rally held to stand against a hateful, anti-Muslim “Reclaim Australia” rally in Cessnock. We were one street away from tbe “reclaimers”, with a thin blue line of police keeping us separated. Thankfully there were no incidents.
Here’s what I said. My first ever rally speech.
I’m honoured to be here today … honoured to stand with you, my fellow Australians, confidently asserting the freedom we all share to worship however we please, wherever we please … but also honoured to speak as one citizen on behalf of many other citizens … and my message today is very simple:
Our unity is powerful. OUR UNITY IS POWERFUL.
When so many around us are doing everything in their power to divide us, our unity is powerful. It sends a message to cowards in Syria … and to bigots in Newcastle … and to social media trolls wherever they might live on Internet … it sends a message that love is greater than fear … it sends a message that the differences between us can strengthen us rather than tearing us apart … it sends a message that a brighter future awaits all of us when we start by turning towards our neighbours with open hearts and open arms.
Our unity — right here, right now, in this place — is powerful, but the unity we’re displaying here today, the unity we’re urging all Australians to embrace — this unity doesn’t come easy. Unity between people who think the same, look the same and talk the same is easy, but that’s because it’s not really unity! Real unity is when people who are fundamentally different come together, engage with each other even when it’s uncomfortable, and ultimately find ways to work towards shared goals. Real unity makes room for differences between people. Real unity doesn’t expect people to become the same as each other. Real unity is what we see here today, and as I’ve said already, it is powerful.
Of course part of the reason we’re here today is because some of our neighbours believe in a uniform Australia. They say we should be all white, or all Christian, and they’re standing particularly firm against the growth of Muslim communities in Australia.
I would prefer to ignore these people and the groups they lead, but sometimes we must respond directly to ignorance and fear and bigotry. So, by way of response to Reclaim Australia and its small but ferocious band of supporters, I have a few important things to say to my Muslim friends. I’m standing here as a white Christian who welcomes Muslims to live and worship and thrive in Australia — and not just in Australia, but right here in the Hunter Region — in Newcastle — in Cessnock — wherever freedom and opportunity might lead you.
I know your worldview is not the same as those who do evil in the name of Islam — in much the same way as Christian tyrants do not represent me. I do not see you as my enemies but as my allies. I’m glad your communities in this region are growing and do not feel in any way threatened by you or by the buildings you need in order to accommodate that growth. I know I speak for many, many others when I say that I love you, that I stand with you, and that I honour you for the courage you show every day as you endure words and deeds of vilification that have no rightful place in this country.
Our unity is powerful and I believe it will ultimately undo the work of those who seek to divide and destroy. In fact, it’s pretty much the only thing that can heal our broken nation. Let’s continue to stand together, not just as we rally against racism and bigotry together, but in our words and deeds and every day.