Australia, diversity, and the pursuit of social cohesion

February 28, 2019

SYDNEY — Vital to participation in the discourses of society is the Baha’i principle of consultation.

Podcast: Australia, diversity, and the pursuit of social cohesion

Venus Khalessi and Ida Walker of the Australian Baha’i Office of External Affairs talk about their efforts in the national discourse on social cohesion.

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In the latest Baha’i World News Service podcast episode, two representatives of Australia’s Baha’i community discuss what they are learning about consultation's power to build greater unity of thought and action in society. Ida Walker and Venus Khalessi, from Australia’s Baha’i external affairs office, have been representing the Baha’i community in one of the most pressing discourses in Australian society—the discourse on social cohesion.

Like many other countries, Australia is grappling with the question of how to foster harmony and cohesion among a population that is increasingly diverse in its ethnic, religious, and cultural makeup. As the government, civil society organizations, and the media have sought to understand this issue better, the Office of External Affairs has been present in the social spaces where social cohesion is being discussed on the national stage.

“We’re really trying in these conversations with others to find language that can help the conversation tip in a direction, which fosters unity and frees us from false dichotomies or assumptions about one another,” Ms. Walker explains.

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Participants in the September 2017 Religious Leaders Forum prepare for their discussion on social cohesion, hosted on the grounds of the Baha’i House of Worship in Sydney. The Baha’i community has participated in these forums for several years.

“We drew on the principles of consultation so that we could have a collective inquiry into certain realities, where everyone’s input is owned by the whole, to really examine how to build social cohesion more closely. Then we were able to contribute to a growing body of knowledge for the benefit of all participants,” Ms. Khalessi adds.